New UN-backed monitoring station to help preserve ozone layer slated for Qatar

19 November 2008

A cutting-edge monitoring station to help preserve the ozone layer protecting all life on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays is to be established in the Persian Gulf country of Qatar under a United Nations-backed project announced today.

The station, the first in West Asia, will plug serious ground and satellite-data gaps in the global network monitoring whether the ozone layer, the thin gas filtering out solar rays that cause skin cancer, cataracts and other ills, is actually recovering after decades of chemical attack.

Under the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Montreal Protocol over 90 per cent of ozone damaging gases have already been phased out and it is predicted that the layer might fully recover around the year 2060 thanks to past, current and future actions.

But without direct scientific observations worldwide, governments cannot know whether improvements are genuinely taking place or whether there is a need to step up or re-focus the response.

“Sound science underpins sound decision-making,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said. “Big data gaps exist for a range of key issues, from climate and ozone to particles and aerosols in the air and atmosphere, in several regions. These include Siberia and large parts of Africa including the Congo River Basin.

“However, the very welcome announcement by Qatar will help plug key data gaps relating to information-gathering in West Asia and the Gulf to the benefit of the region and the world.”

The decision to establish the new station, announced by the Government at the 20th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Doha, the Qatari capital, follows discussions between the Government, UNEP’s ozone secretariat and the Qatar Foundation. The United States space agency NASA will also work with the Government on the project.

Currently the nearest similar ozone monitoring stations are between 800 and 3,340 kilometres away, in Esfahan (Iran) and Nairobi respectively. For measurements of ozone halocarbons, the nearest stations are in Central Europe, more than 4,000 kilometres away, and China, more than 6,000 kilometres away.

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