Earth's ozone hole found to be shrinking

Enlarge Image This animation shows changes in the ozone hole size over time.                  NASA  NASA Ozone Watch  Katy Mersmann

The hole in earth's protective Ozone layer shrank to the smallest it's been since 1988 due to higher temperatures over Antarctica in 2017, according to the study done by NASA scientists.

According to a press release, the hole in the Earth's ozone layer is 1.3 million square miles smaller than past year and 3.3 million square miles smaller than 2015.

"This is what we would expect to see given the weather conditions in the Antarctic stratosphere", Newman added. But the hole's overall reduction can be traced to global efforts since the mid-1980s to ban the emission of ozone-depleting chemicals. "The Antarctic ozone hole was exceptionally weak this year", Paul A Newman, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre said in a statement. "This is a year in which the weather conditions led to better ozone (formation)". The reactions of these chemicals are destroying ozone molecules.

Higher temperatures in the stratosphere, on the other hand, allow ozone to remain more stable in the atmosphere, meaning they keep the ozone hole smaller on a year-to-year basis. This helped minimize polar stratospheric cloud formation in the lower stratosphere. Moreover, the ozone hole still covers an area that is more than two and a half times Australia's size, measuring almost 20 million square kilometers.

In the upper atmosphere, CFCs break apart, freeing chlorine to react with ozone molecules, a reaction that creates oxygen and chlorine monoxide.


However, the researchers have said that a smaller ozone hole this year is not a sign of rapid healing but rather caused by a natural variability.

NASA scientists expect that the ozone hole will return to the 1980 levels sometime around 2070.

NASA and NOAA monitor the ozone hole via three complementary instrumental methods. Every year, the hole reaches its peak at different date. During the 1960s, before the Antarctic ozone hole occurred, average ozone concentrations above the South Pole ranged from 250 to 350 Dobson units. A lack of these clouds is one of the reasons why the ozone layer recovered strongly.

"In the past, we've always seen ozone at some stratospheric altitudes go to zero by the end of September", said Bryan Johnson, NOAA atmospheric chemist.

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