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Ozone (O₃) is a gas that occurs both in the upper atmosphere and near the Earth's surface, and is of particular concern to human health and for the environment. Ground-level O₃ is a widespread, highly reactive air pollutant that is a main ingredient of urban smog and poses a serious health risk. It can also impact crops, trees, and other commercially important vegetation by damaging leaf tissues, reducing plant growth, and making them more susceptible to other stresses such as drought. The stratospheric O₃ layer extends upward from about 6 to 30 miles and protects life on Earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. This natural shield has been gradually depleted by man-made chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). A depleted O₃ shield allows more UV radiation to reach the ground and can affect human health.
Atmospheric scientists study the atmosphere's physical characteristics, motions, processes, and the way in which these factors affect the rest of our environment in an attempt to identify and interpret climate trends, understand past weather, and analyze today's weather. Weather information and meteorological research are also applied in air-pollution control, agriculture, forestry, and the study of possible trends in the Earth's climate, such as global warming, droughts, wildland fires and ozone depletion. AWAE scientists actively involved in this research include: