Science 3 min read

Ozone Layer Hole Shrinks to Smallest Size Since its Discovery

The ozone layer hole has shrunk to its smallest size since its discovery. But, NASA scientists said it's not a sign that the ozone is quickly recovering.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

In a recent statement, NASA announced that the ozone layer hole has shrunk to its smallest size since its discovery.

The good news is that more ozone is covering the southern hemisphere, hence, shielding the surface from UV radiation. The bad news is that the shrinkage doesn’t imply that atmospheric ozone is on a fast track to recovery.

Throughout the year, the scientists at NASA work with their colleagues at NOAA to track the ozone layer. That way, they would detect the exact moment the hole reaches its maximum extent.

At this time of the year, and under average weather conditions, the ozone hole typically grows to as much as 8 million square miles. But that’s not the case this year.

Thanks to unusually strong weather patterns, the upper atmosphere above the South Pole region of Antarctica got warmer. And this resulted in a smaller ozone layer hole.

According to NOAA and NASA satellite measurement, the annual ozone layer hole reached its peak extent – 6.3 million square miles – on September 8. However, the gap shrank for the remainder of the month, reaching less than 3.9 million square miles.

In a statement to the press, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Paul Newman said:

“It’s great news for ozone in the Southern Hemisphere. But 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.”

How Warmer Climate Reduces Ozone Layer Hole

The ozone layer hole in Antarctica forms during the Southern Hemisphere’s later winter.

The returning sun’s rays start a chemical reaction that involves active forms of bromine and chlorine from industrial pollutions. Since this process occurs on the surface of cloud particles that form in cold stratospheric layers, the runaway reactions ultimately destroy the ozone molecules.

However, fewer polar stratospheric clouds form in warmer temperatures. As a result, the ozone-depletion process becomes slower than usual.

Although it’s rare for warm temperatures to limit ozone depletion, it’s not unprecedented. According to Susan Strahan, an atmospheric scientist with the Universities Space Research Association, weather patterns in September 1988 and 2022 also produced small ozone holes.

Strahan noted:

“It’s a rare event that we’re still trying to understand. If the warming hadn’t happened, we’d likely be looking at a much more typical ozone hole.”

The researchers were unable to find a link between the occurrence of these unique patterns and changes in climate.

Read More: Ozone Hole Recovery Confirmed by NASA Atmospheric Researchers

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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