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Hole in ozone layer is 'largest and deepest for years', satellite measurements show

Rob Waugh
·2-min read
Photo Planet Earth aerial view
The hole in the ozone layer is larger than it has been for years. (Getty)

Measurements from a European satellite have shown that the ozone hole over the Antarctic is the largest and deepest it has been for years.

Calculations by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite show that the hole reached its maximum size of 25 million square miles on 2 October.

The size of the hole fluctuates on a regular basis, scientists said.

It was created In the 1970s and 1980s as the widespread use of damaging chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in products such as refrigerators and aerosol tins damaged the ozone high up in our atmosphere.

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The ‘hole’ became the focus of an iconic campaign against pollution, and led to the Montreal Protocol’s ban on substances such as CFCs.

It’s not expected to return to normal until 2050, scientists believe - and meanwhile, it’s fluctuating from year to year.

In 2018, the hole was 22.9 million square miles, and last year the hole not only closed earlier than usual, but was also the smallest hole recorded in the last 30 years.

From August to October, the ozone hole increases in size – reaching a maximum between mid-September and mid-October.

When temperatures high up in the stratosphere start to rise in the southern hemisphere, the ozone depletion slows, the polar vortex weakens and finally breaks down, and by the end of December ozone levels return to normal.

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The variability of the size of the ozone hole is largely determined by the strength of a strong wind band that flows around the Antarctic area.

Diego Loyola, from the German Aerospace Center, said: “Our observations show that the 2020 ozone hole has grown rapidly since mid-August, and covers most of the Antarctic continent – with its size well above average.

“What is also interesting to see is that the 2020 ozone hole is also one of the deepest and shows record-low ozone values.”

Claus Zehner, ESA’s mission manager for Copernicus Sentinel-5P, said: “The Sentinel-5P total ozone columns provide an accurate means to monitor ozone hole occurrences from space.

“Ozone hole phenomena cannot be used in straightforward manner for monitoring global ozone changes as they are determined by the strength of regional strong wind fields that flow around polar areas.

“Based on the Montreal Protocol and the decrease of anthropogenic ozone-depleting substances, scientists currently predict that the global ozone layer will reach its normal state again by around 2050.”