This years Antarctic ozone hole is the second largest ever observed, according to scientists from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). The Antarctic ozone "hole" is defined as thinning of the ozone layer over the continent to levels significantly below pre-1979 levels. Ozone blocks harmful ultraviolet "B" rays. Loss of stratospheric ozone has been linked to skin cancer in humans and other adverse biological effects on plants and animals.
CALM COOL SKIES SPELL LOSSES
This year, colder temperatures and calmer winds allowed chemical reactions that break down ozone to occur at about the same rates as the past few years. However, last years unusually moderate Antarctic temperatures and highly variable upper atmospheric winds kept the ozone hole relatively small, about 40% smaller in area than the record sizes seen in 2000, 2001, and this year. In 2002, the hole also split into two parts for the first time since 1979, also due to unusual weather patterns. These comparisons pit the near-record size of this years hole against a) the small area of last years hole and b) the split shape from last year. Data from TOMS-EP.
The size of this years Antarctic ozone hole reached 10.9 million square miles on September 11, 2003, slightly larger than the North American continent, but smaller than the largest ever recorded, on September 10, 2000, when it covered 11.5 million square miles. Last year the ozone hole was smaller, covering 8.1 million square miles.
NASAs Earth Probe Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer and the NOAA-16 Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet instrument provided ozone measurements from space. These data were coupled with data collected by NOAA’s Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory (CMDL) from balloon-borne instruments, which measure the ozone hole’s vertical structure.
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