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2020’s Ozone Hole Over Antarctica Is Largest It’s Been In Years

by : Cameron Frew on : 22 Oct 2020 10:34
2020's Ozone Hole Over Antarctica Is Largest It's Been In Years2020's Ozone Hole Over Antarctica Is Largest It's Been In YearsNASA/ESA

The ozone hole over Antarctica has reached its annual peak size; unfortunately, it’s the largest and deepest it’s been in years.

The ozone layer is pivotal to ensuring the safety of Earth, absorbing the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. While issues in the ozone layer don’t necessarily cause global warming, both problems are linked by man’s use of greenhouse gases, causing depletion in the atmosphere.

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The hole that lies above Antarctica is seasonal, fluctuating in size into the winter months. After 2019 saw the smallest hole in 30 years, our 2020 update is rather stark.

You can see the growing ozone hole in the video below:

The European Space Agency (ESA) explained in a statement, ‘When temperatures high up in the stratosphere start to rise in the southern hemisphere, the ozone depletion slows, the polar vortex weakens and finally breaks down, and by the end of December ozone levels return to normal.’

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Last year’s hole measured out at 16.4 million square kilometres. However, findings from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, tasked with keeping an eye on the ozone layer, showed this year’s hole to reach its maximum size of 25 million square kilometres on October 2, comparable to similar sizes in 2015 and 2018.

Diego Loyola, from the German Aerospace Center, said, ‘Our observations show that the 2020 ozone hole has grown rapidly since mid-August, and covers most of the Antarctic continent – with its size well above average. What is also interesting to see is that the 2020 ozone hole is also one of the deepest and shows record-low ozone values.’

Ozone Hole 2Ozone Hole 2European Space Agency

Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of Cams, explained to The Independent there’s ‘much variability in how far ozone hole events develop each year. With the sunlight returning to the South Pole in the last weeks, we saw continued ozone depletion over the area’.

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He added, ‘After the unusually small and short-lived ozone hole in 2019, which was driven by special meteorological conditions, we are registering a rather large one again this year, which confirms that we need to continue enforcing the Montreal Protocol banning emissions of ozone depleting chemicals.’

The Montreal Protocol was created in 1987, in a bid to curb our use of damaging chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). With this and ‘the decrease of anthropogenic ozone-depleting substances’, scientists estimate to see the global ozone layer recover to its normal state by around 2050.

Ozone Hole 2019Ozone Hole 2019Atmosphere Monitoring Service

The changing size of the ozone hole depends on a ‘strong wind band that flows around the Antarctic area’, the ESA said. ‘If the band of wind is strong, it acts like a barrier: air masses between polar and temperate latitudes can no longer be exchanged.’

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In 2019, Paul Newman, a chief scientist at NASA, urged that while the small hole was great news, ‘it’s important to recognize that what we’re seeing this year is due to warmer stratospheric temperatures. It’s not a sign that atmospheric ozone is suddenly on a fast track to recovery’.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Science, Antarctica, Environment, Now

Credits

European Space Agency and 1 other
  1. European Space Agency

    Antarctic ozone hole is one of the largest and deepest in recent years

  2. The Independent

    Climate change: Ozone hole over Antarctic ‘largest and deepest’ in recent years, scientists warn