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Carbon emissions are reportedly shrinking Earth’s stratosphere

New research confirms long harboured suspicions that humanity’s emissions are shrinking Earth’s stratosphere, with its thickness reportedly contracting by as much as 400 metres since the 1980s.

Science is starting to draw regular connections between humanity’s role in climate change and marked shifts with the planet, and the latest reports are seriously concerning.

Just last month, data from the American Geophysical Union revealed that humanity’s ceaseless emissions have separated the North and South Poles by up to four meters since the 80s, the mass melting of glaciers leading to a drastic redistribution of weight which has quite literally altered the Earth’s axis of rotation.

With scientists already baffled by humanity’s profound impact on the planet, further reports emerging this week aren’t providing much in the way of optimism.

Science has long hypothesised that humanity’s carbon emissions are likely shrinking the Earth’s stratosphere (located 20km to 60km above Earth’s surface) over time, but a study published this week in the Environmental Research Letters journal has finally provided the vital confirmation needed.

Delving into the archives to pick out the first satellite images recorded of Earth back in the 80s, researchers weighed original observations against ‘climate models’ which look into the complex chemical interactions occurring in our atmosphere.

What they found dispelled a misconception in geophysical science which attributed any potential shrinkage in our stratosphere to ozone losses.

It was commonly believed that the cooling of air in the stratosphere causes the boundary to contract – which is correct – but it transpires that carbon emissions are the key factor in this major shift. We’re talking 400 metres in 40 years, by the way.

If you didn’t know, our overall atmosphere consists of several layers with the troposphere being the one which hangs directly above our heads, and major shifts in its overall equilibrium could lead to serious complications.

Failure to tackle emission levels could ‘affect satellite trajectories, orbital life-times and retrievals, the propagation of radio waves, and eventually the overall performance of the Global Positioning System and other space-based navigational systems,’ said the study researchers.

Prior to this discovery, scientists had reportedly been referring to our upper atmosphere as the ‘ignorosphere’ within inner circles, as science had neglected comprehensive studies on the subject for so long.

With a long overdue breakthrough this week, Professor Paul Williams at the University of Reading believes the paper will ‘strengthen the case for better observations of this distant but critically important part of the atmosphere.’

We’re privy to the immediate impact of climate change and its pressing impact on our industries, ecosystems, and communities, but this story serves as a reminder as to the sheer scope of the issue. It’s in no way an exaggeration to say humanity is destroying the planet.

Thankfully, the events of Earth Day have left us with hope for the future. Pledges from the biggest emitters, such as China, the US, and India, to go carbon neutral in the next few decades could yet restore the balance of our atmosphere in our lifetime.

‘It is remarkable that we are still discovering new aspects of climate change after decades of research, declared Williams. ‘It makes me wonder what other changes our emissions are inflicting on the atmosphere that we haven’t discovered yet.’