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. edvhou812

    So what? Someday we all will die. Big whoop.

    October 3, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike

    never trust a scientist on a government payroll.

    October 3, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill in Florida

      Never trust an anonymous poster named Mike.

      October 3, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      Instead, do you by chance trust a pastor who tells you to give him 10% of what you make because the gods require you to?

      October 4, 2011 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Has Had Enough

    edvhou812, why don't you just die, then, and leave room for people with functioning brains?

    October 3, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SOMEBODYS BORED

    LETS SEE! WE HAVE A MASS AMMOUNT OF UFO'S AND YOU WONDER Y THE OZONE OF ALL PLACES IS DETERIORATING

    October 3, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. retphxfire

    What a pack of lies and photo-shopped pictures. Everyone knows the mental giants of the right have told us there is no problem with ozone layer and there is no climate change.

    October 3, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. one-up-ya

    Last I checked, ozone creation requires oxygen and UV, since there is less greenery at da poles, ozone genesis is commensurately lower hence more rare. Does we also remembah H2O is the most signifigant 'greenhouse gas', making CO2, relatively speaking, insignifigant, period

    October 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • GW

      Due to radiative forcing, while water may be the most abundant greenhouse gas, its contribution is extremely minor compared to carbon dioxide.

      October 4, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @one-up-ya: did ya notice it's smaller than it was? Did ya hear the bit about unprecedented?

      What does that mean to you?

      October 4, 2011 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. b4bigbang

    Who's still using CFCs? Something about this report smells fishy to me.

    October 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • PleaseUseLogic

      A lot of countries still use CFC's. Also, they hang around for a wile and can cause damage long after you stop using them

      October 4, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  8. saints4llife

    if you think these scientist are lying your dumb.

    October 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • b4bigbang

      I believe there's a hole, i just don't think it's being caused by CFCs. Again i ask, Who's using CFCs?

      October 4, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
    • saintsforlife is dumb durrrr

      No, you're dumb. Na na na na boo boo.

      October 4, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. one-up-ya

    @saints4life, which scientists you referring to, theres 2 sides (at least) to the issue, can't believe em both can we?

    October 4, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
    • GW

      Only a miniscule number of scientists (probably with special interests) don't agree. The vast majority of scientists, especially ones in academia, do. If you really think NASA has always been wrong about it for decades, and has been forcing lies into the media, don't you think the Republicans would've shut them down or replaced all of them when they're in power? They only disagree and use talking points to polarize the nation for political votes. In reality even their leadership agrees. For example, if you look for the date we signed the Montreal Protocol and its amendments, look who was President. Reagan. Then Bush.

      October 4, 2011 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  10. one-up-ya

    Radiative forcing huh, oooh that has a ring to it doesnt it now,

    October 4, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  11. one-up-ya

    Sure leeintulsa, that's the Part that made me smile.

    October 4, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  12. one-up-ya

    GW, they did get shut down, but they're like weeds, robust weeds.

    October 4, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. one-up-ya

    Still bent on CO2 huh. When I think of how little CO2 humans create compared to the vast amount created by volcanic activity, I smile again, widely.

    October 4, 2011 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  14. Ed

    Very interesting.. Now we have double barrel Ozone hole action but we will never know if Ozone holes existed centuries ago before we know how to detect them..

    October 4, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • b4bigbang

      @Ed: yes, i was just now wondering about that. How do they know there haven't always been occasional holes?

      October 4, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. one-up-ya

    Why did the unprecedented part make me smile? Ask yourself this; what precedent? Last year? 20 years? To short a time to project any real meaningful data from, so this precedent, to what from where?

    October 4, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
    • XO

      Same thoughts exactly here as well.

      October 4, 2011 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Doubleback

      You are aware we can measure the amount of incoming radiation through damage to carbon? This means we can figure out how much solar radiation has come through for as far back as we can find measurable organic material. Suffice it so say people much more knowledgeable than you can safely call this unprecedented

      October 4, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
    • NewMexicoMan

      Excellent comment, just like we hear of "unprecedented ice loss in the Arctic, although, satellite records of ice loss go back only to 1979. If any of this is human generated, it is probably because alot of the undeveloped nations don't have the restrictions on CFC's that Europe and the US do.

      October 4, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Doubleback

      Git Yur learn on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insolation

      October 4, 2011 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
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