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. Jonathan Calloway

    Are you still on that global heating thing? Right, like the earth is just magically getting hotter.

    October 3, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • GW

      Well instead of listening to Fox News like the gospel, do some research yourself. You'll find that global warming shifts weather patterns (similar to how you see areas of highs and lows on weather radar images), but causes extreme fluctuations. Ever think that's why you're seeing more abnormal extreme weather conditions lately?

      October 3, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • oh really O.O

      For some crazy reason people think weather is a static system that should constantly repeat the same cycle every year for eternity.

      October 4, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff Frank ( R - Ohio ) " Right Dude"

    @Rob or maybe is it Slob No. I am not an engish major nor a rocket scientist. You really need me or someone to light a fire under your as_. So bring it on...anytime...anyplace Rob, if that at all is your real name.

    October 3, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • GW

      I hear a keyboard warrior making threats over the internet...

      October 3, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jean Sartre, Milwaukee, WI

      Did your sister kick you out of bed again?

      October 4, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
    • atheist

      So you believe an English major is some one who just spells better? Now your showing your Tea Party colors.

      October 4, 2011 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    Turn on your heat.

    October 3, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff Frank ( R - Ohio ) " Right Dude"

    @Rob or is it Slob. Here we go UNPRECEDENTED. Considering where I was at the time, I didn't have time to "spell check" anything. You can place your hand back in the Crico now jack off.

    October 3, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • atheist

      ...didn't have spell check??? ha..ha.ha..ha..ha. Better have a long AC adapter line.

      October 4, 2011 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Jean Sartre, Milwaukee, WI

      You probably have to use "Spell Check": for the word: Jeff...

      October 4, 2011 at 3:32 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jeff Frank ( R - Ohio ) " Right Dude"

    @ Rob or is it Slob. Oh these pesky little buttons. I did it again. CRISO jack off CRISCO. 😮

    October 3, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jean Sartre, Milwaukee, WI

      Neanderthals are like that…

      October 4, 2011 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    @Jeff Frank:

    Take a deep breath; somebody like that isn't worth it.
    My best to your entire family.
    I'm rooting for them all.
    (You, too, btw)

    October 3, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ Donna:
    Oh. Heat.
    No. Too much ozone destruction.

    October 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©


    October 3, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    Not that there's anything wrong with *that*!
    It's *my* constant state of being...

    October 3, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio)

    Thanks banasy. Good suggestion, before I start going into a panic attack, and start feeling that "someones sitting on my chest feeling". Got to get back to work now...later.

    October 3, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • atheist

      ."start going into a panic attack" ?... you are definitely not going back to work. No way you are employed.

      October 4, 2011 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I didn't know that one could post what Jeff Frank did about Crisco.

    October 3, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    It's all in the wording, my dear JIF.

    October 3, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. yaya

    Humans didn't make drastic increase in greenhouse gasses last summer that would cause such a shift, So explain that please.

    October 3, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • GW

      There's not instant on/off switch to the environment. Processes take time.

      October 3, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kani

    Santa and all his elves are burning their trash, using hair spray with CFCs and not filtering the chimneys on their factories. US must invade now!!

    October 3, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • GW

      Hair sprays don't have CFCs anymore since they were banned decades ago. Where have you been living?

      October 3, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. @Kani


    October 3, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
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