Published: Sun, November 05, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

Ozone Layer Hole Shrinks to Smallest Size Since 1988, Says New Report

Ozone Layer Hole Shrinks to Smallest Size Since 1988, Says New Report

NASA scientists reported last held by them, measurements of the ozone hole over Antarctica. According to NASA, the ozone hole reached its peak extent on September 11, covering an area about two and a half times the size of the U.S. - 7.6 million square miles - and then declined through the remainder of September and into October.

By mid-September and through October, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through its ground and balloon-based measurements found that the ozone began to recover.

Newman said he and others at NASA don't fully understand why some years are stormier than others, and why ozone holes are smaller. "This is what we would expect to see, given the weather conditions in the Antarctic stratosphere", he added.

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NOAA said that a warmer and unstable Antarctic vortex decreased polar stratospheric cloud generation in the lower stratosphere. But it was still 1.3 million square miles smaller than a year ago, scientists said, and has shrunk more since September.

The largest ozone hole was in 2000 - 29.86 million square kilometers. As they gradually leave the atmosphere, the ozone hole will heal, and scientists expect it to return to 1980s size by 2070. The hole forms as a result of the Sun's rays reacting with man-made chemicals like Chlorine and Bromine released into the air and during late winter time, it destroys ozone molecules. The phenomenon is, of course, natural, but it is overwhelmed by the trend towards a permanent reduction in the ozone hole following the ban on ozone-depleting chemicals in 1987.

Increased fear of the ozone hole deteriorating and leading to more cases of skin cancer led to the signing of the Montreal Protocol.

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In spite of this recovery, the space agency mentions that there is enough ozone depleting material in the atmosphere to cause significant damage. The Aura satellite's Microwave Limb Sounder also measures certain chlorine-containing gases, providing estimates of total chlorine levels. The three-oxygen molecule is toxic at ground level, but high in the atmosphere, it deflects risky ultraviolet rays from reaching Earth's surface.

"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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