This year’s giant Antarctic ozone hole is already among the 25% largest in recorded history and is still growing.
A giant ozone hole has opened up over Antarctica. Already larger than the entire ice-covered continent, the ozone hole has surpassed the size of 75% of ozone holes measured since 1979 and is still growing. Scientists believe climate change might be one of the causes. This year, the ozone hole developed as expected at the start of the season. The latest forecasts show that this year’s hole has evolved into a rather larger than usual one. Last year’s hole also began unexceptionally in September, but then turned into one of the longest-lasting ozone holes in all data record. This year the hole will continue to grow until early October, when temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere will start to rise.
The ozone layer, which sits between 9 and 22 miles above the Earth, protects the planet from ultraviolet radiation. The hole in the Southern Hemisphere is typically caused by chemicals, such as chlorine and bromine migrating into the stratosphere, creating catalytic reactions during Antarctic winter. The ozone hole is related to the Antarctic polar vortex, a band of swirling cold air that moves around the Earth. When temperatures high up in the stratosphere start to rise in the late spring, ozone depletion slows, the polar vortex weakens and finally breaks down, and by December, ozone levels usually return to normal.
Researchers are still trying to unpack the connection between climate phenomena experienced on Earth and the processes in the stratosphere. It is therefore impossible to say whether this year’s unprecedented heatwaves in many parts of the world and the gaping ozone hole might be connected. Climate change isn’t entirely responsible since some countries continue using and releasing the banned substances illegally.
Graphics provided by CAMS