American chemist who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with
chemists Mario Molina and Paul Crutzen for research on the depletion
of the Earth's ozone layer. Working with Molina, Rowland discovered
that man-made chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) propellants accelerate the decomposition
of the ozonosphere, which protects the Earth from ultraviolet radiation.
Their findings eventually brought about international changes in the
Rowland and Molina theorized that CFC gases combine with solar radiation
and decompose in the stratosphere, releasing atoms of chlorine and chlorine
monoxide that are individually able to destroy large numbers of ozone
molecules. Their research, first published in Nature magazine in 1974,
initiated a federal investigation of the problem. The National Academy
of Sciences concurred with their findings in 1976, and in 1978 CFC-based
aerosols were banned in the United States. Further validation of their
work came in the mid-1980s with the discovery of the so-called hole
in the ozone shield over Antarctica. In 1987 an international protocol
to ban the production of ozone-depleting gases was negotiated by the
United Nations in Montreal.
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