Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Record Ozone Hole Over the Arctic Has Closed

Science
Record Ozone Hole Over the Arctic Has Closed
Ozone forecast charts produced daily by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service show predictions for total vertical ozone column values for the Antarctic region up to five days ahead. European Commission Atmosphere Monitoring Service

An unusual phenomenon happened in March and April when an enormous hole in the ozone layer formed over the Arctic. Last week, though, scientists tracking the hole noticed that it has closed, as CNN reported.


Unlike the infamous hole in the ozone over Antarctica, which was caused by overuse of now illegal chemicals containing chlorofluorocarbons, the hole in the Arctic was caused by a combination of factors, including low Arctic temperatures, sunlight, pollutants and a particularly strong polar vortex, according to the Copernicus' Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS), as CNN reported.

"These two are really different animals," said Paul Newman, the chief scientist in the Earth Sciences Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, as Mashable reported. "This [Arctic ozone hole] is not comparable to the Antarctic ozone hole. If this was happening over the Antarctic we would be shouting for joy."

The hole over Antarctica opens up every year from August until October. However, it has improved dramatically since ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons were banned in the 1994 Montreal Protocol. Last year, the Antarctic ozone hole was at its smallest since it was first discovered, as CNN reported.

While the COVID-19 lockdowns have improved air quality around the world and helped wildlife, the drops in pollution did not cause the ozone hole to close up.

"COVID19 and the associated lockdowns probably had nothing to do with this," CAMS said on Twitter. "It's been driven by an unusually strong and long-lived polar vortex, and isn't related to air quality changes."

The hole in the ozone above the Arctic started in March when unusual conditions trapped cold air over the North Pole for several weeks in a row. That triggered a circle of cold air, known as a polar vortex, which led to clouds high in the atmosphere. Those clouds interacted with pollutants from human emissions and depleted the ozone gases above the Arctic. The hole it opened up was roughly three times the size of Greenland.

The ozone layer, which sits between 9 and 22 miles from the earth's surface, shields the planet from the sun's damaging ultraviolet radiation. The hole above the Arctic would have only posed a threat to humans if it had traveled or expanded farther south, as Euronews reported.

"It's unusual but not unexpected," said Newman, of the recent Arctic ozone hole, to Mashable. "It's unusual in that we only have events like this about once per decade."

In 1997 and 2011, there were similar ozone depletions of the Arctic, according to Antje Innes, a senior scientist at the European Union's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, who spoke to Mashable. However, the extent of ozone depletion was far greater during this one.

Scientists insist it is too early and too rare to say if the recent ozone depletion portends a new trend. "From my point of view, this is the first time you can speak about a real ozone hole in the Arctic," said Martin Dameris, an atmospheric scientist at the German Aerospace Center, to Nature.

People Have the Power - VOTE 2020

Climate-action nonprofit Pathway to Paris first launched in 2014 with an "intimate evening" of music and conversation after the People's Climate March in New York City.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heo Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. sarote pruksachat / Moment / Getty Images

A national park in Thailand has come up with an innovative way to make sure guests clean up their own trash: mail it back to them.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The 2020 presidential election poses a critical test of climate conservatives' willingness to put their environmental concerns before party politics. filo / Getty Images

By Ilana Cohen

Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.

But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.

Read More Show Less
Headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva amid the COVID-19 outbreak on Aug. 17, 2020. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Read More Show Less
Exterior of Cold Tube demonstration pavilion. Lea Ruefenacht

By Gloria Oladipo

In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch