Hole In Earth’s Ozone Layer Now Bigger Than Antarctica

by : Poppy Bilderbeck on : 17 Sep 2021 16:57
Hole In Earth's Ozone Layer Now Bigger Than AntarcticaEuropean Space Agency/Alamy

This year, the hole in Earth’s ozone layer has been reported as having developed more than expected, and is now bigger than the size of Antarctica. 

The Earth is protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays by the ozone layer. However, between August and October every year, a hole appears in the layer, opening up above the South Pole.


Chemicals that exacerbate the hole were identified in the 1970s; in 1987, they were phased out, although some have remained in the atmosphere. When combined with certain weather conditions, they can still effect the ozone layer, and this year, the size of the hole was ‘rather larger than usual’.

Satellite view, atmosphere and ozone layer. Climate changes. Ozone hole. Sun protection. Layers of the atmosphere.Alamy

The ozone layer protects the Earth and those who inhabit it from having their cells harmed by high-energy radiation from the sun. Each year, chemicals made by humans linger in the atmosphere, these react with solar energy from the sun and cause a hole to form in the ozone layer in the southern hemisphere, with the peak taking place at the start of October.

In 1987, there were restrictions placed on chemicals that harmed the ozone layer. Thanks to this, experts expect the hole to permanently close by 2050. However, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, in just the last week, the hole in Earth’s ozone layer above Antarctica has grown substantially.


When weather conditions have been normal throughout the year, the hole usually reaches a size of around 8 million square miles.

However, this year’s hole in the ozone, has ‘evolved into a rather larger than usual one’, according to Vincent-Henri Peuch, the head of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. He said the hole could potentially also be ‘deep’ as well as ‘quite big’.

Last year’s hole ended up as being one of the longest-lasting holes in the ozone on record, reaching about 9.7 million square miles.


The temperature of last year’s ozone layer was also lowered, as the European Space Agency reported that it had a ‘strong, stable and cold polar vortex’.

2021’s ozone hole appears to be following a similar progression to 2020. It is 75% larger for this part of the season than most other holes have been since 1979.

However, the progression was expected by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast, according to scientist Antije Inness, due to ‘current atmospheric conditions’. Inness is eager to see how the hole will develop over coming weeks.


Peuch noted that it ‘may continue to grow slightly over the next two or three weeks’, as the vortex is ‘quite stable’ and the stratospheric temperatures are ‘even lower’ than last year, MailOnline reports.

Human-made chemicals, such as halocarbons refrigerants and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), can make the hole in the ozone particularly bad. An international treaty called Montreal Protocol was introduced in 1987, to try and stop such chemicals being created. But such chemicals have continued to live on in the atmosphere, which has resulted in a slow process.

Claus Zehner, manager of the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission, said, despite the large size this year, they ‘expect a closing of the ozone hole over the South Pole by the year 2050’.


By 2060s experts hope that all of the harmful chemicals will finally have disappeared from the atmosphere too.

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Topics: Science, Antarctica, Now, Scientists, sun


  1. MailOnline

    Hole in the ozone layer that develops annually is 'rather larger than usual' this year - and is currently bigger than Antarctica, scientists say