Satellites show that the recent ozone hole over Antarctica was the smallest seen in the past decade. Long-term observations also reveal that Earth’s ozone has been strengthening following international agreements to protect this vital layer of the atmosphere.
According to the ozone sensor on Europe’s MetOp weather satellite, the hole over Antarctica in 2012 was the smallest in the last 10 years.
The instrument continues the long-term monitoring of atmospheric ozone started by its predecessors on the ERS-2 and Envisat satellites.
Since the beginning of the 1980s, an ozone hole has developed over Antarctica during the southern spring – September to November – resulting in a decrease in ozone concentration of up to 70%.
Ozone depletion is more extreme in Antarctica than at the North Pole because high wind speeds cause a fast-rotating vortex of cold air, leading to extremely low temperatures. Under these conditions, human-made chlorofluorocarbons – CFCs – have a stronger effect on the ozone, depleting it and creating the infamous hole.
Over the Arctic, the effect is far less pronounced because the northern hemisphere’s irregular landmasses and mountains normally prevent the build-up of strong circumpolar winds.