As most of you know, one of the most dangerous threats to our planet is a “monster” hole in the Earth’s ozone layer. However, scientists from NASA say that the ozone hole is healing and has shrunk to its smallest size since 1988.
The hole in the protective ozone layer measured about 7.6 million square miles at its largest point for this year in September, which is about two and a half times the size of the United States. However, the good news is that it was about 1.3 million square miles smaller compared to its last year’s size, according to the scientists. Also, it has healed more even since September.
According to the scientists, warmer-than-usual weather in the stratosphere has contributed to the healing since 2016. They say that the warmer air helped repress chemicals like chlorine and bromine, which are known for damaging the ozone layer. Still, the shrinkage of the ozone hole is also a result of the global efforts to ban the emission of ozone-damaging substances.
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Paul A. Newman, chief Earth Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight, said, “Weather conditions over Antarctica were a bit weaker and led to warmer temperatures, which slowed down ozone loss,”
He proceeded to say, “It’s like hurricanes. Some years there are fewer hurricanes that come onshore … this is a year in which the weather conditions led to better ozone [formation].”
The news that the ozone hole is healing arrived right after the 30th anniversary in which the hole was discovered. The discovery of this hole, as you may know, led to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which led to the vast global effort to ban the use of ozone-depleting substances.
The ozone hole has mainly taken place above Antarctica, and it wasn’t too long until scientists, as well as everyone else, started worrying that the hole would jeopardize those who live in the southern hemisphere. Ozone is a colorless gas that protects the Earth from ultra-violet radiation. The ultra-violet radiation is one of the main causes of skin cancer and cataract disease, the former of which can be more than fatal, and it also disrupts plant growth, according to the scientists.
Scientists discovered that chlorofluorocarbons were the chemicals wearing down the thin ozone layer located above Antarctica, back in the 1970’s. However, during the mid-80’s and 90’s, the ozone hole became one of the main causes of concern, globally. The ozone hole spreading was so alarming to the point that it led the public to express support for the scientists in their battle against this “monster” hole’s growth.
Mario Molina, who played a critical role in the discovery of the ozone hole, said, “It’s extremely rewarding because it was originally just a scientific effort, and then we were able to convince society that it was a problem — here’s what would happen if we do not deal with it.”
Later, in 2014, scientists said that the recovery of the ozone layer was a result of banning the chemicals which were used in refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosol cans in the 1980’s. However, unfortunately, chlorofluorocarbon chemicals have a long life-span, and they could still float somewhere in the stratosphere, even 50 to 100 years from now. According to the scientists, the ozone layer won’t get back to its 1980’s form at least until 2070.
Although the ozone hole is healing, in June 2017, scientists found another threat that could affect the ozone layer’s healing which is dichloromethane. This industrial chemical has the power to damage the ozone layer, and its existence in the atmosphere has doubled over the last ten years. According to the study that was published in the journal, Nature Communications, if the concentrations of dichloromethane continue growing, it could delay the Antarctic ozone layer’s healing by up to 30 years.