Scientists find another hole in the ozone layer, and this one’s over the Arctic

The ozone hole over the Arctic, less than 1 million sq. km, is much smaller than Antarctica's hole that can reach a size of 20 to 25 million sq. km.

Scientists have observed the opening up of a rare hole in the ozone layer above the Arctic. They attribute it to the unusually low temperatures in the atmosphere above the North Pole.

Scientists from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) found out about this ozone depletion using data from the Copernicus Sentinel–5P satellite.

The Copernicus programme is a collaboration between the European Space Agency, the European Commission, and other stakeholders.

“The ozone hole we observed over the Arctic this year has a maximum extension of less than 1 million sq. km. This is small compared to the Antarctic hole, which can reach a size of around 20 to 25 million sq. km with a normal duration of around three to four months,” said Diego Loyola of the German Aerospace Center.

The hole in the ozone layer above the Arctic, this year, is bigger than the hole seen in 2011. Image credit: ESA

The hole in the ozone layer above the Arctic, this year, is bigger than the hole seen in 2011. Image credit: ESA

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) says that the last time a similar depletion of the ozone layer was observed over the Arctic was in spring 2011.
CAMS reveals that the depletion in 2020 seems to be stronger than the previous one.

The reports assert that while the development of ozone holes over the Antarctic every year during the Austral spring is a common phenomenon, such strong ozone depletion is not normally found in the Northern Hemisphere.

It goes on to state that the Antarctic ozone hole is caused due to human-made chemicals, including chlorine and bromine. These chemicals go into the stratosphere and accumulate inside the strong polar vortex that is formed over the Antarctic every winter.

As per the report, temperatures in this vortex can come down to below –78 degrees Celsius, which can lead to the formation of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs). These stratospheric clouds play a key role in chemical reactions involving human-made chemicals, leading to ozone depletion once sunlight starts falling in the area.

The Arctic stratosphere is comparatively less isolated than its Antarctic counterpart because of the presence of nearby landmasses and mountain ranges, leading to a disturbance in weather patterns.

That’s why the polar vortex in the Northern Hemisphere is weaker and more perturbed than in the Southern Hemisphere. The temperature in this region also does not plunge so low.

The report, however, says that temperatures in the Arctic stratosphere went low enough for several months at the beginning of this year to allow for the formation of PSCs, which resulted in large ozone losses.

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