Ozone Hole Smallest in Recorded History

The blue and purple areas indicate the hole in the ozone layer.                  NASA  NASA Ozone Watch  Katy Mersmann

Scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atomospheric Administration (NOAA) have noted that a hole in the Earth's ozone layer that forms over Antarctica each September due to warm air was the smallest this year since 1988.

According to NASA, the ozone hole reached its peak on September 11 which covered nearly an area about two and a half times the size of the United States.

Previous year saw the smallest ozone hole on record for this same reason.

"In the past, we've always seen ozone at some stratospheric altitudes go to zero by the end of September", said Bryan Johnson, an atmospheric chemist with NOAA.

Its maximum value the size of the hole in the ozone layer reached 11 September this year, when in Antarctica ended the winter season. "This is a year in which the weather conditions led to better ozone (formation)". A Dobson unit is defined as the number of ozone molecules required to create a.01mm-thick layer of pure ozone at a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) at an atmospheric pressure equivalent to that at ground-level.

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The treaty, known as the Montreal Protocol, has also helped save millions of lives, in addition to reducing the size of the hole. In the upper atmosphere, the ozone layer shields the planet from potentially harmful UV rays that can cause skin cancer, damage crops and contribute to other health issues. NASA says the smaller hole "is due to natural variability and not a signal of rapid healing".

The formation and persistence of these clouds are important first steps leading to the chlorine- and bromine-catalyzed reactions that destroy ozone, scientists said.these recent Antartic conditions resemble those found in the Arctic, where ozone depletion is much less severe.

The largest ozone hole was in 2000 - 29.86 million square kilometers.

NASA says researchers expect the hole to return to 1980 levels by around 2070. The agencies use satellites, weather balloons and ground-based instruments to study and track the hole.

Each year, the hole reaches its peak in September and begins to shrink after mid-September. A lack of these clouds is one of the reasons why the ozone layer recovered strongly.

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