Scientists from the European Space Agency said this week that this rare hole is the largest of its kind ever recorded in the northern hemisphere of the planet. It covers an area about three times the size of Greenland, according to the journal Nature.
“From my point of view, this is the first time you can speak of a real ozone hole in the Arctic,” Martin Martin, atmospheric researcher at the German Aerospace Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, told Nature.
The Earth’s atmospheric ozone layer acts as a protective barrier between the sun’s harmful rays and the Earth’s surface. Chemicals of human origin calledhas been the layer of the last century, causing a thinning, and finally, the massive hole that formed in Antarctica in the 1980s.
Experts say “unusual weather conditions” are behind the massive hole, including freezing temperatures that bring clouds at high altitude together. Industrial chemicals interact with these clouds to eat away at the ozone layer.
While temperatures drop constantly at the South Pole each year, these conditions are rare in the North, whichmuch less frequent exhaustion.
Markus Rex, an atmospheric scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam, Germany, says strong winds have created a polar vortex this year, causing more cold air over the Arctic than in any winter recorded since 1979. Lower temperatures mean high altitude clouds – and the destruction of ozone.
After signing the Montreal Protocol in 1987, 197 countries agreed to phase out chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons to protect ozone from further damage, which has contributed to a decrease in the size of the hole above Antarctica.
While the most recent hole is cause for concern, scientists say it should heal within the next month as temperatures warm up. The hole is still far from being as worrisome as its southern counterpart and is not currently a threat to human health.
If he were to drift to lower latitudes in the coming months, Rex said people should just be a little more careful and apply sunscreen to avoid burns. “It wouldn’t be difficult to manage,” he said.
“Right now, we’re looking forward to what’s going on,” said Ross Salawitch, atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland at College Park. “The game is not completely over. “
In 2018, NASA announced the first direct link between banning chemicals and recovering ozone holes in the southern hemisphere. However, it will still take decades for the layer to repair and for the chemicals to completely disappear from the atmosphere.