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. PaddyReagan

    By the end of October the population of the earth will top 7 billion. We've added a billion to that number in less than a dozen years. We've added 1.5 billion cows plus hogs, sheep, dogs, and cats, all of which must eat and add waste to a world that is burning through forests and fossil fuel at an alarming rate. With all of that, there are those who deny that mankind has any impact on climate change/global warming. I'm not sure why those in denial protest so ferociously. If we're at fault there's some change that we can make corrections. If Mother Nature is in the midst of a climatological shift we're in serious trouble!

    October 4, 2011 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh – this article has nothing to do with global warming. Ozone depletion is thought to be caused by CFCs, which were banned worldwide a couple decades ago. Some countries, however – Canada, much of Asia – have pretty much ignored the ban, although levels of CFCs have dropped dramatically thanks to US and European adherence.

      According to the article, in fact, the current problem is caused by widespread cooling. Not warming.

      October 4, 2011 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      @sixdegrees - "Cooling" and "warming" are part of the same phenomenon - a fact that seems to conveniently elude those who wish to do nothing about this issue

      October 4, 2011 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. one-up-ya

    I'm working on it. Doubt I will get it tonight. I hpoefully don't care if I'm right or wrong, just to know as near as possible the truth or at least the widest consensus. See if I can't do it.....

    October 4, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  3. clearfog

    Simple. Pray the spray away.

    October 4, 2011 at 3:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. fearlessdude

    You people, stop farting.

    October 4, 2011 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. ngc1300

    one-up-ya: Eos Transactions (a publication of the American Geophysical Union) indicates that annual volcanic production of CO2 is about 200 megatons (200 million tons) per year. According to publications from Oak Ridge National Labratory, human production from burning of fossil fuels, wood, etc. is about 8-9 gigatons (8-9 billion tons) per year. Additional increases from human activity such as livestock production, and deforestation (which reduces the ability of the biosphere to sequester CO2), amount to another 1-2 gigatons per year. This amounts to 10 or so gigatons per year, which is 50 times the production from volcanic sources.
    As far as C14 is concerned, it is produced by the capture of thermal neutrons (from cosmic rays) by nitrogen atoms high up in the atmosphere. The rate of production is not known for sure, and is likely to be somewhat variable, being influenced by changes in the cosmic ray flux, and changes in the Earth's magnetic field. There is, however no evidence of any consistent change in the rate of production. C14 dating results are usually given as a somewhat wide range, based upon this uncertainty, and errors in the precision of measurements.

    October 4, 2011 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tony

    I was read that the U.S. Space Shuttle, which has been retired, was responsible for 19% of the chlorine in the atmosphere. Anyone heard that? I may be in error but I know it was a large percentage.

    October 4, 2011 at 3:32 am | Report abuse |
  7. one-up-ya

    GW, if I may, my apologies for being crude. If you'll work with me, I have an estimated 11111.1 volcanos producing an average of 18000 m.t.co2 Daily, for an annual estimate of 200000000.0 m.t. Co2. Which, if I follow, would then be 1/100 the output of human generated co2. I am trying to undrestand this, would you have an idea of approx. How much co2 might be generated by the consumption(?) of 100 met.tons of crude oil?

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

    @anybody, if not GW?

    October 4, 2011 at 4:17 am | Report abuse |
    • leonid

      Around 300 tonnes. sounds funny, but its true

      October 4, 2011 at 5:17 am | Report abuse |
  9. one-up-ya

    @GW. Probably hit the sack considering the hour.
    Well, first half hour or so, can't find solid facts on my haughty stance, second half hour or so, took in skepticalscience-vols & global warming, which was (is) replete wih em. But, fortunately, or unfortunately I guess, once I have developed a posistion, I won't budge until facts force me, at least until I can't pretend, in my own mind. Your posistion has been amply supported, I produced nada. For whatever reason, correlations I can grasp, etc, I'm not yhouroughly swayed, but I bow to your posistion as at this time being more plauseable, and mine perhaps not. I appreciate your tone and regret my own. Folks, GW's stance is worth reckoning, mine is not holding the gas.

    October 4, 2011 at 5:01 am | Report abuse |
    • leonid

      Refer to the following for that final convincing nudge.

      October 4, 2011 at 5:08 am | Report abuse |
    • leonid

      btw, you seem like a nice, inquisitive person. i like that.

      October 4, 2011 at 5:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. dougaussie

    we're all doomed i tell ya

    October 4, 2011 at 5:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. one-up-ya

    @ngc1300 sorry ngc, I may have gotten you mixed with GW, for all I said about GW on my last post, you are equally included. FOLKS-NGC1300 is WORTHY of recognition. With a defensable stance, humbly, Tj.

    October 4, 2011 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. flarnkingsgargle

    Liberal myth. There are no bad consequences to burning any material.

    October 4, 2011 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. one-up-ya

    Leonid, is that an answer to my question of co2 amt from 100 m.t.Crude? Triple? If so, thank you, and thank you.

    October 4, 2011 at 5:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. one-up-ya

    I'll check that now, thanks again

    October 4, 2011 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Pollution blocks UV light

    Without UV light, everything dies. Holes in the earths ozone layer are natural, and necessarry for life. The idea that pollution causes more UV light exposure is rediculous. One single volcano caused Antarctica's ozone hole millenia ago. Our pollution and out technology are blocking us from life sustaining UV light, without which a human cannot even digest food properly and becomes obese.

    October 4, 2011 at 5:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Saywhat?

      So glad we have experts here posting......

      October 4, 2011 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      You are so factually incorrect as to be amusing. I assume you failed science 101.

      October 4, 2011 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
    • angryersmell

      Does computer ownership also cause stupidity?

      October 4, 2011 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
    • thespellingpolice

      that's rediculous!

      October 4, 2011 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
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