The smudges of dark blue on this Envisat-derived ozone forecast trace the start of what has unfortunately become an annual event: the opening of the ozone hole above the South Pole.
"Ever since this phenomenon was first discovered in the mid-1980s, satellites have served as an important means of monitoring it," explained José Achache, ESA Director of Earth Observation Programmes. "ESA satellites have been routinely observing stratospheric ozone concentrations for the last decade. "And because Envisat’s observations are assimilated into atmospheric models, they actually serve as the basis of an operational ozone forecasting service. These models predict the ozone hole is in the process of opening this week."
Envisat data show 2004’s ozone hole is appearing about two weeks later than last year’s, but at a similar time period to the average during the last decade. The precise time and range of Antarctic ozone hole occurrences are determined by regional meteorological variations. The ozone hole typically persists until November or December, when increasing regional temperatures cause the winds surrounding the South Pole to weaken, and ozone-poor air inside the vortex is mixed with ozone-rich air outside it.
Mariangela D’Acunto | alfa
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