Science

Earth's Ozone Hole Shrivels to Smallest Since 1988

Earth's Ozone Hole Shrivels to Smallest Since 1988”

It's a molecule made up of three oxygen atoms, O3, and is less chemically stable than the regular O2 molecule.

The massive hole in our ozone layer has been one of the biggest environmental concerns for decades, but a surprising new report indicates that it has shrunk to its smallest size at peak since 1988.

Heavy use ozone-damaging chemicals - in particular, clorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (CHCs and HCHCs) used in old-timey fridges and spray cans - burned a gaping hole in this layer in the 70's and 80's.

Thirty years ago, the global community signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the Ozone Layer and began regulating ozone-depleting compounds. Similar reactions occur with bromine.

At its peak on September 11, 2016, the ozone hole extended across an area almost two and a half times the size of the continental United States. NASA report informed that during the latest review, ozone hole reduced 1.3 million square miles compared to past year.

This year's unusually warm weather caused a warm Antarctic vortex to minimize stratospheric cloud formation.

The hole in our planet's ozone layer is getting patched up.

While that sounds like a lot, it's actually 1.3 million square miles less than the peak a year ago, and 3.3 million square miles less than in 2015.

The ozone hole was largest in 2000, when it was 29.8 million sq km wide, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa).

Warmer-than-usual weather conditions in the stratosphere are to be thanked for the shrinkage since previous year, as the warmer air helped fend off chemicals such as chlorine and bromine that eat away at the ozone layer, scientists said.

However, scientists said that two years of lower-than-usual ozone hole extent isn't a sign that the ozone layer is healing faster than expected. High in the atmosphere, about 7 to 25 miles (11 to 40 kilometers) above the Earth, ozone shields Earth from ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer, crop damage and other problems. "The average area of these daily ozone hole maximums observed since 1991 has been roughly 10 million square miles". Exposure to higher levels of UV radiation (such as those associated with a thinned ozone layer) significantly raise the risks of developing cataract and skin cancer. The Aura satellite's Microwave Limb Sounder also measures certain chlorine-containing gases, providing estimates of total chlorine levels.

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

This year, the ozone concentration reached a minimum over the South Pole of 136 Dobson Units on September 25- the highest minimum seen since 1988. However, that concentration is still low compared with the 1960s, before man-made compounds created the ozone hole. "This year our balloon measurements showed the ozone loss rate stalled by the middle of September and ozone levels never reached zero".



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