According to scientists, the hole in the ozone layer has hit a record low.
Newly released data shows the ozone hole hitting a near-record low October of last year. The hole, which hovers above the Antarctic, is believed to have shrunk so much last fall because of hotter temperatures. Warm weather meant the smallest size hole of the protective atmospheric layer in over two decades.
The record low measurement of the ozone layer was taken on September 22 of last year, according to scientists. At that time, the hole was estimated to be 8.2 million square miles (21.2 square kilometers), the same size as all of North America combined. This may seem large, but it is quite a reduction from the largest measurement of the hole , which was recorded in 2000 at 11.5 million square miles, (29.9 million square kilometers).
While ozone itself is considered a pollutant on Earth’s surface, floating above the atmosphere it is crucial for bounding harmful ultraviolet radiation back into space. The ozone layer essential saves humans from devastating UV rays that can cause skin cancer.
Years ago, researchers discovered the hole in the ozone layer is caused by chlorine in the atmosphere that comes from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs are man made chemicals that were used in various products, including spray cans. Scientists say CFCs can stick around in the stratosphere for decades, causing added destruction of the ozone layer.
The hole in the ozone layer is particularly large in the Antarctic because of the temperatures, scientists say. Higher temperatures can stop the CFCs from destroying the ozone layer while colder weather means more ozone destruction and a bigger hole. According to scientists, the largest ozone holes have been measured in years when the Antarctic experienced very cold winters with high polar winds.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has revealed that the ozone layer hole was especially small in September and October of 2012. According to their report, the South Pole experienced higher than usual air temperatures, which kept the ozone safe from the CFCs.
According to Jim Butler, who works for the NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, the warmer temperatures are the sole reason the ozone hole was so small in 2012.
“It happened to be a bit warmer this year high in the atmosphere above Antarctica, and that meat we didn’t see quite as much ozone depletion as we saw last year, when it was colder,” he said.
Scientists first found the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica in the late 1970s. Due to the continued use of CFCs, the hole proceeded to grow throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, researchers have gotten the word out about the danger of CFCs and the size of the hole has begun to level off in the 2000s.
CFC production has been banned for over 25 years, but that does not been the ozone will be recovering any time soon. In fact, according to Paul Newman, an atmospheric chemist at NASA, the ozone may not reach its early 1980s size until 2060.