Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Unusually small antarctic ozone hole this year attributed to exceptionally strong stratospheric weather systems


Scientists from NASA and the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have confirmed the ozone hole over the Antarctic this September is not only much smaller than it was in 2000 and 2001, but has split into two separate "holes."

The researchers stressed the smaller hole is due to this year’s peculiar stratospheric weather patterns and that a single year’s unusual pattern does not make a long-term trend. Moreover, they said, the data are not conclusive that the ozone layer is recovering.

Paul Newman, a lead ozone researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., said this year, warmer-than-normal temperatures around the edge of the polar vortex that forms annually in the stratosphere over Antarctica are responsible for the smaller ozone loss.

Estimates for the last two weeks of the size of the Antarctic Ozone Hole (the region with total column ozone below 220 Dobson Units), from the NASA Earth Probe Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (EPTOMS) and the NOAA-16 Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet instrument (SBUV/2), are around 15 million square kilometers (6 million square miles). These values are well below the more-than 24 million sq. km. (9 million sq. mi.) seen the last six years for the same time of year.

The stratosphere is a portion of the atmosphere about 6-to-30 miles above the Earth’s surface where the ozone layer is found. The ozone layer prevents the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth’s surface. Ultraviolet radiation is a primary cause of skin cancer. Without protective upper-level ozone, there would be no life on Earth.

"The Southern Hemisphere’s stratosphere was unusually disturbed this year," said Craig Long, meteorologist at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC). The unusual weather patterns were so strong, the ozone hole split into two pieces during late September. NOAA’s CPC has been monitoring and studying the ozone since the early 1970s. "This is the first time we’ve seen the polar vortex split in September," said Long.

At South Pole Station, balloon-borne ozone-measuring instruments launched by NOAA’s Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory (CMDL) reveal the vertical structure of the developing ozone hole. Bryan Johnson, a scientist with CMDL, said the main ozone depletion region, from 7-to-14 miles above the Earth, has large ozone losses, similar to the last few years. At more than 15 miles above the Earth, surface measurements show higher-than-normal ozone concentrations and higher temperatures.

The combination of these layers indicate total ozone levels in a column of atmosphere will be higher than observed during the last few years, Johnson said. However, some layers may still show complete ozone destruction by early October, when ozone depletion is greatest.

In 2001, the Antarctic ozone hole was larger than the combined area of the United States, Canada and Mexico. The last time the ozone hole was this small was in 1988, and that was also due to warm atmospheric temperatures.

"While chlorine and bromine chemicals cause the ozone hole, temperature is also a key factor in ozone loss," Newman said. The Montreal Protocol and its amendments banned chlorine-containing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and bromine-containing halons in 1995, because of their destructive effect on the ozone layer. However, CFCs and halons are extremely long-lived and still linger at high concentrations in the atmosphere.

The coldest temperatures over the South Pole typically occur in August and September. Thin clouds form in these cold conditions, and chemical reactions on the cloud particles help chlorine and bromine gases to rapidly destroy ozone. By early October, temperatures usually begin to warm, and thereafter the ozone layer starts to recover.

NOAA and NASA continuously observe Antarctic ozone with a combination of ground, balloon, and satellite-based instruments.

Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Jacobs University supports new mapping of Mars, Mercury and the Moon
21.03.2018 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH

nachricht Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected
20.03.2018 | GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>