We don’t hear about the ozone layer as much as we used to anymore, and that’s partly because a lot of progress has been made thanks to the Montreal Protocol which took effect in 1989, but that doesn’t mean that the problem has been solved. In fact, we now know that many of the worst ozone depleting molecules (HCFCs and HFCs) are also potent greenhouse gases, on top of destroying high-altitude ozone and exposing us to more UV that cause skin cancers and damage plants and phytoplankton, so that should just increase our urgency to truly solve the problem…
The latest NASA observations on the ozone hole over Antarctica – the most affect area on the planet – show that these days the hold is about 24.1 million square kilometers, or 9.3 million square miles. To put that in perspective, that’s an area roughly the size of North America! This is a bit smaller than the largest ever single-day ozone hole observed, which was recorded by satellite on Sept. 9, 2000 and measured 29.9 million square kilometers (11.5 million square miles).
The image above shows the hole on September 11, 2014. The one below on September 30th of the same year.
The graphs below show some of the progress made since the international community has started tackling the problem. This year’s level of these ozone-depleting substances over Antarctica has declined about 9% below the record maximum in 2000.
“Year-to-year weather variability significantly impacts Antarctica ozone because warmer stratospheric temperatures can reduce ozone depletion,” said Paul A. Newman, chief scientist for atmospheres at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The ozone hole area is smaller than what we saw in the late-1990s and early 2000s, and we know that chlorine levels are decreasing. However, we are still uncertain about whether a long-term Antarctic stratospheric temperature warming might be reducing this ozone depletion.”
We don’t hear about the ozone layer as much as we used to anymore, but that doesn’t mean that the problem has been solved.