One Of The Largest Holes In The Atmosphere Is Shrinking

Enlarge Image This animation shows changes in the ozone hole size over time.                  NASA  NASA Ozone Watch  Katy Mersmann

Enlarge Image This animation shows changes in the ozone hole size over time. NASA NASA Ozone Watch Katy Mersmann

"The Antarctic ozone hole was exceptionally weak this year", said Paul A Newman from NASA.

The ozone hole is a depletion of ozone gas (O3) in the stratosphere above Antarctica. Experts say that in 2017 the size of the ozone hole in the Antarctic has reached its minimum, since 1988.

The hole that hovers over Antarctica has been slowly recovering, scientists say, due to an worldwide ban on harmful chemicals that were previously used in refrigerants and aerosols. The three-oxygen molecule is toxic at ground level, but high in the atmosphere, it deflects unsafe ultraviolet rays from reaching Earth's surface.

Those clouds, called polar stratospheric cloud formations, can be persistent, and they're a first step that can lead to chemical reactions that destroy ozone.


The treaty, known as the Montreal Protocol, has also helped save millions of lives, in addition to reducing the size of the hole. This phenomenon is quite natural, and the hole will reach sizes of 80-th years of the last century only by 2070.

"In the past, we've always seen ozone at some stratospheric altitudes go to zero by the end of September", said Bryan Johnson, NOAA atmospheric chemist. 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. Similar reactions occur with bromine. According to NASA, the ozone hole reached its peak extent on September 11, covering an area about two and a half times the size of the U.S. - 7.6 million square miles - and then declined through the remainder of September and into October. For today the width of the damage is a little over 7.5 million square miles, nearly 1.5 million miles less than a year ago.

The hole in Earth's ozone layer that forms over Antarctica each September was the smallest observed since 1988, NASA satellite measurements from this year have revealed. These conditions help fend off certain cloud formations in the lower stratosphere that can deplete the ozone. According to NASA, the average maximum extent of the ozone hole since 1991 has hovered at about 10 million square miles (25.8 million square km).

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