According to NOAA and NASA satellite measurements there is an Antarctic hole that has been measured, and it is reported that the warmer air temperatures that were high above the Antarctic led to the second smallest seasonal ozone layer. This Antarctic hole started making its appearance in the early 1980’s and it forms every year around September and October. The average size of this hole already measured at an average size of 6.9 million square miles, but in September the Antarctic hole had already reached its maximum of 8.2 million square miles, which is about the size of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. combined. In fact, in 2000 the largest ozone hole was 11.5 million square miles, which sounds like this year it is getting pretty close to 11.5 million square miles and October isn’t over yet.
But how did this all start? Well, when the Antarctic ozone hole was discovered in the early 1980’s they saw that it was caused by chlorine that was released by manmade chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. The chlorine can rapidly break apart ozone molecules in certain conditions.
Sadly even after 25 years and an agreement that was signed that regulated production of ozone-depleting chemical, this ozone hole is still forming each year and by the looks of it, it got worse .NOAAA reports that NASA’s atmospheric scientist, Paul Newman says that it can be as long as a decade before they can start seeing positive results on the Antarctic ozone recovering and that it probably won’t return to its early 1980s state until about 2060.
Many factors can contribute to the time needed for this hole to recover fully like the decrease in the large quantity and long lifetime of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere. Climate change may also affect the recovery time by cooling the stratosphere, which has many competing effects on the ozone depletion.
Now, why is all of this important?
The ozone layer helps shield us from potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer and damage plants. Fortunately for us, NOAA and NASA scientist are keeping a close watch on our ozone layer with satellite date, ground-based measurement and balloon-borne instruments because, as NOAA states their mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. For more information go to http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/20121024_antarcticozonehole.html