NASA’s Arctic Ozone Watch has reported the formation of a large hole in the ozone layerabove the North Pole and it may be the largest ever found in the North.
The discovery occurred during March when weather a balloon revealed a drop of 90 percent in ozone at the core of the layer. It is important to know that at this point in the discovery, the information is still being assessed and the full gravity of the problem is not yet known but it is likely this is the biggest reduction of ozone in the region ever.
Two previous holes were discovered in 2011 and 1997, both were considered mini-holes as their depletion was not severe enough to qualify as fully-fledge holes.
Holes in the ozone are caused by manufactured chemicals that deplete the layer of ozone that protects life from the the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. In the early 1980’s, through a combination of ground-based and satellite measurements, scientists began to realize that Earth’s natural sunscreen was thinning dramatically over the South Pole each spring.
Scientists found out that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)—long-lived chemicals that had been used in refrigerators and aerosol sprays since the 1930s were the cause of the problem. In the layer of the atmosphere closest to Earth (the troposphere), CFCs circulated for decades without degrading or reacting with other chemicals. When they reached the stratosphere, however, their behavior changed. In the upper stratosphere, ultraviolet light caused CFCs to break apart, releasing chlorine, a very reactive atom that repeatedly catalyzes ozone destruction.
“We have at least as much loss as in 2011, and there are some indications that it might be more than 2011,” Gloria Manney, an atmospheric scientist at NorthWest Research Associates in Socorro, New Mexico, told Nature.
It is unclear how the issue will evolve over the next couple of weeks as the Northern hemisphere becomes more illuminated by the sun and temperatures continue to rise but it will be very important to identify what humans need to do to help prevent this from continuing to occur.