Hole In Ozone Layer Is Smallest Since 1988

Posted: Nov 3 2017, 11:39pm CDT | by , Updated: Nov 3 2017, 11:45pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Hole in Ozone Layer is Smallest Since 1988
Credit: NASA

This year's ozone hole has shrunk due to warmer Antarctic air

Warmer air temperatures high above the Antarctic led to the smallest recorded seasonal ozone hole in 30 years. Satellite imagery shows that this year’s ozone hole has shrunk by 19.6 million square kilometers, which is an area about two and a half times the size of the United States.

Ozone layer is a layer of gas that occurs in Earth’s upper atmosphere and protects us from potentially harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiations emitted by the sun. The ozone hole, however, is a depletion of ozone layer and forms over Antarctica in the months of September and October. Every year, the hole peaks at different date. This year, the hole reached its annual maximum size on September 11.

“The Antarctic ozone hole was exceptionally weak this year,” said Paul A. Newman, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. “This is what we would expect to see given the weather conditions in the Antarctic stratosphere.”

First detected in 1985, the ozone hole is the result of the pollution containing the chemicals like chlorine and bromine. The reactions of these chemicals are destroying ozone molecules. Higher temperatures in the stratosphere, on the other hand, are allowing ozone to remain more stable in the atmosphere and reducing the growth of ozone hole. Last year, the ozone hole reached a maximum 8.9 million square miles, 2 million square miles less than in 2015.

“The smaller ozone hole in 2017 was strongly influenced by an unstable and warmer Antarctic vortex – the stratospheric low pressure system that rotates clockwise in the atmosphere above Antarctica. This helped minimize polar stratospheric cloud formation in the lower stratosphere. The formation and persistence of these clouds are important first steps leading to the chlorine- and bromine-catalyzed reactions that destroy ozone.” NASA statement reads.

NASA and NOAA have been monitoring the growth and recovery of the ozone hole through satellite observations since 1980s. On average, the ozone hole covers an area of about 10 million square miles every year. In 2016, scientists have observed the first signs of healing in Antarctic ozone layer and they expect that the ozone hole will return to its normal levels around 2070.

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