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. banasy©

    It could be due to reindeer flatulence...

    October 3, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff Frank ( R- Ohio ) "On my little break"

    Brown sky in morning Reindeer take warning. Brown sky at night, Reindeer delight. 😉

    October 3, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff Frank ( R- Ohio ) "On my little break"

    Reindeer flatulence..he he..that's cute banasy. I never go hunting again.

    October 3, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff Frank ( R- Ohio ) "On my little break"

    I'll start feeding my furry little friends simethicone tablets on the way home from work....gotta go.

    October 3, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    @Jeff Frank:

    You never know...GasX worked wonders on our squirrel population...and on my granddaughter! 😀

    October 3, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cykill45

    not one serious comment...more of "ignore it and it will go away"

    October 3, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • GW

      Republican motto – Ignorance is bliss...unless it affects your wallet.

      October 3, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bob

    yes and they will be the first to start crying like a little girl...while they're being roasted alive.

    October 3, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Say What

    You kids show that ignorance is bliss.

    October 3, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    Okay, so let's deregulate environmental protection so the big industries that are going to give us 'jobs' can make the hole even bigger...I've done my damn part, I won't be crying...I'm not ignoring it, but the bloody GOP is! What the hell do you want me to do? I notice you two didn't exactly say anything, either...what's YOUR answer, cykill45 and bob?
    Derision is easy, but you two haven't said a thing worth reading, either.

    October 3, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • atheist give your granddaughter Gas -X.??? !!! Time to change pediatricians, time to stop feeding the kid McDonald's( or whatever white trash diet you cook up) and time to stop using double negatives in you pointless comments. You could probably loose about 60 pounds yourself. You and Jeff could get a room.... just no anal...who the hell knows what is living in that colon! Talk about a climate changing event.

      October 4, 2011 at 3:53 am | Report abuse |
    • atheist

      "Okay, so let's deregulate environmental protection so the big industries that are going to give us 'jobs' can make the hole even bigger...I've done my damn part, I won't be crying...I'm not ignoring it, but the bloody GOP is!" We are not ignoring you...we can not respond to a statement that makes no sense.

      October 4, 2011 at 4:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. rh

    That's funny, considering I just saw a study that says that the "ozone holes" have been greatly exaggerated and we are not that bad off. Which is it?

    And atmospheric scientists are always just concerned enough to ask for more money to do research. That's why the BS computer modeling of "global warming" "researchers" are taken as gospel by the media. Everyone else who uses computer models admits they are just simulations, unless you are a climate scientist that is.

    October 3, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • atheist

      and your point is?? Your computer has done a a pretty good job revealing you are fairly mindless.

      October 4, 2011 at 3:56 am | Report abuse |
    • atheist

      oh you saw a "study". Than it must be true. You do do realize that you have to also read the study. BTW, do you know how to evaluate a study? Ya know.. study design,etc...all that petty stuff.

      October 4, 2011 at 4:12 am | Report abuse |
  11. WhackyWaco

    Here we go again.

    October 3, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. QueenJoe1

    I hope all the smartassses on here naysaying climate change are the first dumb holes to die in a flood. They deserve it.

    October 3, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Big Joe

    Wonder why it is only at the poles this Chlorine phenomena seems to occur?
    Although the atomsphere is thicker at the poles it would seem insufficent
    to explain the concentration at the poles!

    October 3, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • atheist

      another Wikipedia "cut and paster".

      October 4, 2011 at 3:59 am | Report abuse |
  14. Skeptic

    The Earth is flat!

    October 3, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • GW

      According to Republicans it is...since to them (as the trend in the comments sound like) scientists are always incorrect. Unless there's money to be made in agreeing of course.

      October 3, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • atheist

      So... Atlas is not holding up a globe ..he is tossing a pizza...hhhmmm...that screws up Ayn Rand's philosophy. Oh no, all the tea p.. are Goggling Ayn Rand.

      October 4, 2011 at 4:06 am | Report abuse |
  15. Madhu Thangavelu

    ...and the corelation of approaching solar maximum on this ozone hole is something to ponder, perhaps ?

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