Ozone Depletion Sets Record at the North Pole

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Jerry

The original ozone hole occurs over the South Pole, Antarctica.  This is because temperatures in the stratosphere are colder there, at minus 80° Fahrenheit, for longer in the year than at the North Pole.  This year ozone depletion over the North Pole set a new record at 40% surpassing the old record of 30% due to a longer, very cold, Arctic winter stretching farther into March and April than normal.

Researchers note the greater variability of temperatures in the North Pole which cause larger fluctuations of ozone depletion from year to year.  Although ozone depletion was larger than normal it was not unexpected.  The U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization acknowledged that even though this Arctic winter was warmer than average at ground level, it was colder than normal in the stratosphere.

Scientists remain optimistic that the world’s ozone layer outside of the polar regions will return to pre1980 levels around 2030-40 and that both poles will fully recover by 2045-60.  This is according to scientists at the WMO who continue to have faith in the continued enforcement of the Montreal Protocol that progressively banned the worst offending chemicals over a number of years.

Confusion about whether the ozone is recovering continues however as an April article titled “First Detection of Ozone Hole Recovery Claimed” appeared in Science magazine’s April 8, 2011 edition.  The article quoted researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia as saying their study showed that “virtually all” of the of the year-to-year changes in springtime Antarctic ozone can be accounted for with two kinds of atmospheric circulation.  “Subtracting their estimate of the natural changes in ozone from actual changes, the group finds ‘a clear upward trend since the late 1990’s’ in the hole’s ozone that represents a ‘systematic rebound’.   Over the past decade the rebound has amounted to about 15%, they estimate.” This report was controversial among atmospheric researchers who said the report’s data was insufficient and could produce different conclusions if uncertain parameters were varied in a new analysis.

June 2, 2011, San Francisco, Ozone Hole

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 10: Protect Life Imperative – Ozone Hole, on page 115, there is discussion of the exception made in the Montreal Protocol for developing countries that allows their continued use of ozone destructive chemicals and the rapid growth of use of air conditioners in China and India.  The concern is that this exception will limit or reverse progress gained in restoring the ozone of the planet.

Use the following links to access the WMO press release and Science magazine article: http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_912_en.html

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