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. saywhat

    Who cares?

    Let's get on with & get off of what we have been doing for the past decade, that's more fun. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya then Syria then Iran. Oooh! What a ride.
    Climate, poverty, disease, illiteracy – all media hype.
    And what goes on in this beloved US of A of our own can wait. Right Americans?

    October 3, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Seriously??!! Everyone should care! Do you think this has no ramifications for you or our children? Get a clue, or better yet, get informed!

      October 3, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      This is a couple of dumb questions that I've never heard before. Possibly because of the relative "tardness" of them.

      If a hole is being opened in the ozone layer to allow UV light and radiation in, what is escaping?

      Is it possible that the CFC's are escaping or is it just chemicly corroding the ozone layer itself?

      October 4, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
    • bailoutsos

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

      October 4, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. emma

    wow ! this is unprecidented !

    October 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bimbo the Birthday Clown

    ****SARCASM ALERT*****

    Who cares. It's not our problem. Let the sky people deal with it.

    October 3, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joe the Plumber

    I dont think scientic studies will impress the anti- science GOP much. But keep trying they may get it someday.

    October 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. MobiusEight

    Oh no! Now we have to... carry on with our lives as usual – Hey, why is this even news?

    October 3, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fernace

    Sure, we can deregulate to our GOP-TP's content! In fact who the heck needs regulations, at all! Let's go back to medieval times & pitch our garbage in the streets! It'll be fun! We can make bets on how long we'll last without an ozone layer, living in our own filth! Median life expectancy will go back to 40, but we'll have fun in the mean time, except when we're sick from tuberculosis & dysentery! That sacastic enough for y'all! Lol!!

    October 3, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff Frank ( R - Ohio ) "Right Dude"

    if your ozone "hole" is about the size of Anartica, and it has been, and you do not have empirical data over the last 1000 years, depictring the change, you ARE an alarmist. So don't use adjectives like unpprecidented.

    October 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Given your level of...expertise...with the English language and apparent lack of any sort of scientific literacy, I suggest a "name" change. "Wrong Dude" or "Everyone Will Be Better Off Disregarding My Uninformed Ramblings Dude" would work, I think.

      October 3, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • atheist

      uh...hey dud(e)...so you believe in God....like ..a ya ..know ( the R- is a dead give away, as is the adjective Right)..man... like... but ...their is no empirical data... ya .. know.

      October 4, 2011 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Jean Sartre, Milwaukee, WI

      Just re-load your gun, open your bible and pray it all away... Dude!

      October 4, 2011 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. obiewan

    This just isnt our problem. Plus it could be a portal to another galaxy. Has anyone tried flying a plane or something into it?

    October 3, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. _anon

    The actual report repeatedly states that this is not influenced by man, as do all other articles on this release. Way to go CNN what little reporting you actually do now you manage to botch up. It was the cold temperatures according to Michelle Santee from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Then again if cnn had to admit that last few years were comparatively cooler...

    October 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • holyrollerskater

      from the article above: "“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."

      October 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • pteri

      You are correct, _anon, just found this paragraph on a science news site:

      "It takes four things to destroy much of the stratosphere’s ozone: sunlight; very prolonged cold temperatures; a stable vortex of winds that prevents ozone losses inside it from being replenished with more from outside; and the presence of special clouds that foster the transformation of benign chlorine molecules into ozone-vanquishing types. For the first time in the Arctic, all of these conditions aligned for months, says JPL atmospheric scientist and coauthor Nathaniel Livesey, “making it the perfect storm.”

      Makes me wonder if maybe yellow journalism is caused by global warming!

      October 3, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • GW

      According to the article, and the journal, it takes a combination of temperature and man-made factors.

      October 3, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. James Cameron Jeezy Crisco Johnny Cochrane Jesus the Christ

    It's totally the "sky" people's fault. They came down here from heaven to strip this spinning t_u_r_d ball of all its resources, since God can't just create whatever you want. Those pesky angels will pay!

    October 3, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. What was That?????

    Hey ... Hey .... Have you ever put Peanut butter on your privates and let your dog lick it off? Good times ..... good times.

    October 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. james Miller

    A good loyal Repub would deny,deny,deny saying the findings are inconclusive--– besides, if true, it wouldn`t be helpful to their "portfolio" of energy stocks..........

    October 3, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. james Miller

    Seek divine intervention.......

    October 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I'll bet that global warming is responsible for this low temperature on the third day of October in my Manhattan apartment. This little chill may not be unprecedented, but I am surprised and uncomfortably cold.
    I should not have left such a big carbon footprint.

    October 3, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • GW

      Global warming (you probably don't know much about it since you take it quite literally as only "warming") can cause very high or very low temperatures as well due to shifted weather patterns.

      October 3, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Grumpy

    We can't do anything about this! Think of all the jobs that will be lost! The wealthy will lose billions of dollars if we cut back on our pollution! What crackpot scientists came up witht his BS? NASA? What do they know? So what if the polar caps disappear and people start developing more skin cancers? When we can't live on this planet any longer, the Koch brothers and Goldman Sachs will just buy us a new one . . .

    October 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonathan Calloway

      That would be socialism.

      October 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
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