From: NOAA
Published May 1, 2017 08:22 AM

Fifty years ago, a historic balloon launch that changed the way we see the ozone layer

From atop this grassy mesa in 1967, scientists with the federal Environmental Science Services Agency carefully launched a weather balloon carrying a new instrument that could measure ozone levels from the ground to the very edge of outer space -- and radio the data back to a ground receiver.

What started out as a modest research project driven by scientific curiosity provided the agency that would later become NOAA with some of the first insights into how ozone,  a trace gas that blocks the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays from penetrating through the stratosphere, was distributed in the atmosphere. The instrument -- an early version of today’s ozonesonde -- helped NOAA develop knowledge and expertise that became vitally important when the Antarctic ozone hole was discovered 15 years later.

Ozone research was scientist Sam Oltmans’ first assignment when he started with ESSA in Boulder in 1969.

“At the time, we had very limited measurements of ozone in the atmosphere,” said Oltmans, a retired NOAA Global Monitoring Division scientist who continues to work with the agency. “We were just trying to get a basic understanding of what stratospheric ozone was like.  No one had the foggiest idea about stratospheric ozone depletion.”


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Photo via NOAA.

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