Study shows unprecedented loss of ozone above Arctic
At left, colors represent ozone levels in March 2011. At right, colors representing chlorine monoxide are shown.
October 3rd, 2011
01:51 PM ET

Study shows unprecedented loss of ozone above Arctic

Loss of the Earth’s ozone layer above the Arctic last winter was unprecedented, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory told CNN on Monday.

In findings published in a new study in the journal Nature, scientists said a hole in the ozone was caused by an unusually long period of low temperatures in the stratosphere, the protective layer that shields the Earth’s surface from harmful radiation.

While ozone loss is a sadly common occurrence at the South Pole, recent findings document a similar event happening at the Earth’s northernmost point. “We’ve never seen that kind of phenomenon in the Arctic before,” Michelle Santee, an atmospheric scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said.

Although it was comparatively small - “The area of the Arctic loss zone was about 60% the size of a typical ozone hole,” Santee said - the ozone hole has raised concerns among atmospheric scientists.

“The same process that destroys the ozone layer in Antarctica chlorine and other man-made compounds such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) - takes place here also, but it’s just that it never occurred in the Arctic to the same degree,” Santee said.

Scientists from 19 international institutions took part in the study, according to a NASA press release.

The especially brutal cold temperatures experienced by much of the United States last winter have little to do with what’s going on in the stratosphere, Santee said.

“When we’re talking about the weather, we need to be clear we’re talking about weather in the stratosphere, not on the Earth’s surface. Cold conditions alone are not enough to cause such a phenomenon (ozone loss),” Santee said, “but you also need man-made compounds."

The ozone hole is relatively stable, Santee said.

“There’s a large weather pattern that keeps the area of extreme ozone loss confined to about 2 million square kilometers, or about five times the area of California,” Santee said. “But it does move around a little bit. It can shift around and it did drift above populated areas in March and April. This leads to greater values of UV radiation - but I should add that this was a very short time,” she said. “The exposure was very temporary.”

So long as the chlorine in the atmosphere remains elevated, ozone holes will be long-lived, atmospheric scientist Nathaniel Livesey said.

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Filed under: Science • Weather
soundoff (229 Responses)
  1. Caveman

    The ozone layer fluctuates throughout the whole year around the globe and the hole usually morphs to different sizes because of it. The hole that you see on the left is probably due to a shift in ozone mass around the globe and is probably nothing more than a morphing trend. Now if you see a huge hole, exceeding the size of the Arctic.. then you better phone someone.

    October 4, 2011 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • CW

      It's a good thing you know more than an atmospheric scientist at JPL:

      “We’ve never seen that kind of phenomenon in the Arctic before,” Michelle Santee, an atmospheric scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said.

      October 4, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Busted

      You are a perfect example of what is wrong today, back in the day stupid people use to be able to admit they were stupid and they would leave subject matters they don't understand to the experts. Today everyone thinks they know everything about everything, truly unbelievable.

      October 4, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  2. bailoutsos

    Russians are causing it. They want to melt the ice and explore for oil.

    October 4, 2011 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Caveman

      Thanks. All you have to do is watch a time elapsed film of the ozone layer satellite imagery and you will be able to understand it's behavior. The hole increases and decreases all the time over an annual scale. It's not that I don't trust what the guys at JPL are saying.. it's that I don't always agree with the interpretation of the data being presented and collected and like to offer my version of it. I could be wrong, and will admit so accordingly if so.

      October 4, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  3. George

    This is it people. This is the end. You better pack your bags and run as fast as you can.

    October 4, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. Brian

    Just once, it would be nice to read a scientific article on here and not have a bunch of uneducated bafoons making stupid comments. You are probably the same people that speak just to hear yourselves talk. If you have nothing constructive to add to the discussion, please crawl back into your hole.......and shut up.

    October 4, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • @Brian

      Well, Mrl Brian, you did not make any educated or thoughtful comments. You just criticized everyone else....how is that constructive? Please find your own hole, sir.

      October 4, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Busted

      I agree with you. I do love the incoherent responses from others though.

      October 4, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • peanut

      I'll have you know....even highly educated folks when blinded by their own bias will make stupid comments.

      It is a human condition.

      October 4, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Gaurav

      Love people who call others uneducated by charecterizing them as "bafoon".

      October 4, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. Average Joe

    I would love for the world to end. It can't happen fast enough. Bring it!

    October 4, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    Looks like NSF funding for climate research was dwindling and its time for some more fear mongering to support this drove of Al Gore zombie researchers we have created over the last 20 years.

    October 4, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Busted

      Bingo... ignorance is bliss, keep the opinions of scientists and their crummy witchcraft out of the media, people don't need to know this stuff.

      October 4, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dave

    Oh No! The whole is getting bigger! The reason is simple. You ready for it? Here goes. " It's because Obama wants to make the folks and corporations that benefited the most over the last 10 years finally pay their fare share" He want's to rais their taxes. The world is going to end"

    There you have it. Now you know.

    October 4, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Oh No! The hole is getting bigger! The reason is simple. You ready for it? Here goes. " It's because Obama wants to make the folks and corporations that benefited the most over the last 10 years finally pay their fare share" He wants to raise their taxes. The world is going to end"

      There you have it. The culprit is Obama.

      October 4, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Oh No! The hole is getting bigger! The reason is simple. You ready for it? Here goes. " It's because Obama wants to make the folks and corporations that benefited the most over the last 10 years finally pay their fair share" He wants to raise their taxes. The world is going to end"

      There you have it. Now you know.

      October 4, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  8. Good Stuff

    "Both ends of the ozone burning. Funny how the world keeps turning!" -Toby Keith

    Support and funding for the climate change scam is depleting, so it's time to scare more people and politicians to raise more money and push their agenda.

    October 4, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. one-up-ya

    Hey, hey, hey, love to play tackle! Environmental alarmists, beware, the common folk isn't as gullible as you wish! I had more time to research, my ovrestating the importance of volcanic activity fortunately only meant I had at the time neglected to include the myraid other sources of natural co2 production, seas, geysers, the incredible aray of organisms, oceans, hot-springs, burning-deacying vegetation, fumaroles, and etc, etc. Let me say, if it were so cut and dried, the 'global warming scientists' wouldn't have gotten caught lying and hyping, they wouldn't have needed to. I did more research, refreshed my views. Goes to show, don't back down too quick, like I did, these guys have a house built on sand. As the record shows, the earth has warming and cooling cycles, and the human contribution, if much at all, does not show me cause for concern. I reitreate, h2o is THE most signifigant greenhouse gas, but the alarmists wouldn't get much milage from that, now would they!

    October 6, 2011 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. Richard in Texas

    Who needs science anyways.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. sillybean

    Uh uh yeah, and where's the proof that this trend isn't entirely natural and NOT manmade? How do today's scientist know what the ozone looked like 50 years ago, let alone 50M years ago... We could have had holes abundant in the past and now it looks like a gem in comparisson. Oh wait, even considering that notion makes too much sense...

    Keep on banning CFCs – including asthmatic inhalers – wingnuts will ruin this world via mass hysteria all the while blame the Christians for spreading religious mass hysteria.

    By the way I'm neither a wingnut or a Christian.

    November 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sillybean

    Scientists: They sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!!!

    Christians: The end is coming the end is coming!!!!!

    Both sound stupid.

    November 8, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
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