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. DetroitFrank

    "caused by an unusually long period of low temperatures" Huh? I thought the Libtards are crying about man-made global warming? No one lives at the North or South Pole areas, who cares about loss of ozone where people do not live. Guess the Libtards are worried about Santa Claus and his elfs.

    October 4, 2011 at 6:04 am | Report abuse |
    • max

      Wow, DetroitFrank ... they allow idiots like you to breed ??? you truly represent detroit well, no wonder its a dying city ... read the article again moron ... f'ing teatards

      October 4, 2011 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
    • SKyle

      You really need to crack a book. Heck, even if you aren't a reader, common knowledge might suggest that when you have a hole in something, anything, that hole is allowing other stuff to escape; in this case, precious atmosphere that keeps the sun from burning off our oceans. Sure, no one may live at the poles, but that doesn't mean the long term effects of increased radiorecepitivity should go ignored. Moron.

      October 4, 2011 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Malacoda

      You can't expect a conservitard from Detroit to understand anything complicated. They used to manufacture cars there that had a clock that only ran on central time because they couldn't see past their own noses.

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

      Unable to read, just listen to Fox eh? Try reading again carefully. One thing you might want to try to comprehend is that climate change is actually causing both hotter and cold situations as ocean currents are disrupted and change from long established patterns..

      October 4, 2011 at 7:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I thought everyone voted for "Change"

      October 4, 2011 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. Actually...

    ...many people living in that area depend on UV light. What do people in Detroit depend on, and you call that living? (@Det. Frank)

    October 4, 2011 at 6:14 am | Report abuse |
    • toy

      no people in detroit dont need ozone the sniff cocaine

      October 4, 2011 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  3. one-up-ya

    @detroitfrank
    But you wouldn't saw off your face to spite your nose wouldja? We would be concerned about a 'hole' whether we could do something or not, since the ozone 'layer' is connected to earth, itself, and us. Health in any one area relates to the health of the whole. Besides, we might well be able to 'help' it, and keep the nose, face and all.

    October 4, 2011 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. sherman

    stop playing that HAARP

    October 4, 2011 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. Pete

    People live here in the Arctic circle Frank. Last year's winter was cold but late, this summer was record breaking warm, and now the snow has come early but the temperatures are still above normal. It's called "climate change" and I'm not saying it's man made, but it's happening. Anyway, this isn't about climate change it's about a hole in the ozone... caused by chlorine and cfc's.. which are put there by humans...

    October 4, 2011 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Seems to me that if this is indeed caused by man-made pollutants, this would be seen above a more populated area, not just in areas where very few if any live. Looks like some reasearchers grabbing at straws to get an extension on research grants.

      October 4, 2011 at 7:04 am | Report abuse |
    • mattski

      Well, climate scientists call that weather.

      October 4, 2011 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. one-up-ya

    @leonid
    Geez, I wish the whole thing was a bit simpler, I thouhgt I had grasped some of it a coupla years ago, although a bit unorthodox, it made sense, now, dang-it, I know much less than I thought. I think.

    October 4, 2011 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. one-up-ya

    I think, I thought, I thank...ka-thunk!
    Nice talking to you folks, g'night.

    October 4, 2011 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. HIH

    Get out the horse and buggy and all that goes with it

    October 4, 2011 at 6:41 am | Report abuse |
  9. jellymon

    Bush's fault!

    October 4, 2011 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. zoosphere

    I think that the power of the pollution caused by human is tremendous and it's possible that the ozone hole is created by human-caused pollution. We need to look around and see what we've done. We need to be modest and accept the possibility of the bad effects of what we have done. That's important, I think.

    October 4, 2011 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Maybe we can buy some ozone credits.

      October 4, 2011 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
    • zoosphere

      I might agree with you, but CFCs are too much in the air, I think.

      October 4, 2011 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. lol

    Remember to continually cripple the US Industry for going green incentives that lower the pollution rate by .001% every 20 years while countries like China have absolutely zero environmental safety laws or care for them. It will definitely deter global warming!

    October 4, 2011 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
    • clay

      so just cause china has no environmental laws that means the US should follow suit? Maybe we should become a communist country too.

      October 4, 2011 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
  12. Benny

    This is just 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 7:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Gabor47

    Ozone (O3) created by UV light from the Sun. Ozone is an unstable molecule, breaks down to ordinary oxygen in less than an hour. Over the polar regions, half a year winter, far less exposure to the Sun is insufficient to maintain the same ozone layer than for example over the Equator. The ozone holes over the poles MUST BE present from the beginning of times. It was "discovered" only when the technology developed to detect it. Then it was turned into an environmentalist BS. CFCs are banned for way over a decade ago. If the original theory (CFCs) would be true, no increase should occur anymore, but it does, which proves my point.

    October 4, 2011 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
    • SmokyMTNBlight

      It takes 15-20 years for CFC's to reach the upper atmosphere. We are just now beginning to see the effects of the peak use of them prior to their being banned. Thanks for the reminder.

      October 4, 2011 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. Bobby G.

    The end is near....

    October 4, 2011 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
  15. Trolololol

    Everyone is an idiot. The government uses vapor trails from their airplane to systematically eliminate areas of ozone to put the US at a tactical advantage. I don't get it though, it's been scientifically proven that Ozone does absolutely nothing in terms of keeping the planet stable.

    October 4, 2011 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      It makes it so we don't need SPF 300..

      October 4, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Oops!You appear to have misplaced your tinfoil hat. Would you like me to try to make you a new one? (I'm quite good with origami, actually....)

      October 4, 2011 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
    • LadyAnon

      Trolololol: Where do you come up with your mis-information? The reported holes in the ozone are not some off the wall concocted government conspiracy theory just to keep plants and factories regulated and to try to encourage auto makers to come up with vehicles that create less pollutants that wreck havoc to our atmosphere.

      I get so sick of idiots that, when a REAL scientific study is proving something and it's clear and in their face, they scoff at it as if they somehow know better. DumbA**.

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

      "it's been scientifically proven that Ozone does absolutely nothing in terms of keeping the planet stable."

      Wow there is life outside of planet Earth. Shame it isn't intelligent life.

      October 4, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • BS

      "chem trails". The conspiracy theory of those to stupid to realize that regular contrails are often blown by the wind perpendicular to commercial flight paths.

      October 4, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Tammy

      You're a Perry supporter aren't you Trolololol?

      October 4, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • ummmm

      there may be a wee bit of irony in this statement...cool off everyone...

      October 4, 2011 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
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