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.

Post by:
Filed under: Science • Weather
soundoff (229 Responses)
  1. hmmm....

    What I'd like to know is what is happening with the weight of the earth. I'm sure the spike in obesity is resulting in human induced earthly weight gain and that may be the culprit for the ozone hole. That areas ozone can simply not keep up with the falling earth. Sort of like the temporary void a falling rock makes in water. WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!

    October 4, 2011 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
    • GizzyN

      I'm just going to back away slowly... because I KNOW there are people out there who actually think that fat people make the earth "weigh" more... and trying to explain concepts like mass, or the laws of thermodynamics...well, it's just too darn early in the morning for that discussion.

      October 4, 2011 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. Andrew

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling.

    October 4, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • richunix

      Sadly your joke is becomming truer and truer each day, only to be exasperated by fools believing we are not causing these conditions.

      October 4, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • John in NY

      But wait, I thought eliminating CFCs from our spray cans and freon from our refrigerators and a/c units was suppose to solve this issue, not after we get hit with the cost of the change and the cost of the their more expensive replacement we find that it didn't make a difference after all?

      I'm shocked, shocked I say!

      October 4, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. one-up-ya

    @trololol
    Tell me what you think trololol, ozone half life is short indeed, but there's a lot of it there. Isn't the o3 formed by UV radiation, whereby 'using'it, therefore moderating the amount, wouldn't that be 'helping' the planet in its exposure to UV, so then adding, perhaps creating stability on the planet surface?

    October 4, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. yowser

    Oh goody gumdrops, kevin does origami, and he's quite good at it!

    October 4, 2011 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  5. yowser

    @zoosphere
    I'm unsure how long it takes for cfc's to reach ozonosphere, but I heard upwards of a hundred years, forthe few that aren't heavier than air, can you add to this?

    October 4, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. Run4DaHills

    "The ozone hole is relatively stable," Santee said. Ahhh, ok, then. Don't Panic.

    October 4, 2011 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. yowser

    What I wonder is the reaction of UV on cfc'? Do they even stand up for one minute against the fussilade of uv? Or are they immediately
    RIPPED ASUNDER?
    Does anyone here know?

    October 4, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  8. Billy

    "“We’ve never seen that kind of phenomenon in the Arctic before,” Michelle Santee, an atmospheric scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said."

    You are a liar. I remember nearly 25 years ago, being told in school about the hole that was slowly growing in the ozone over the arctic.

    YOU ARE A LIAR. LIAR SCIENTIST.

    October 4, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • BS

      That was over antarctica, numbnuts. The article was pretty clear about that if you had actually read it.

      October 4, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. TD

    Can someone define 'Unprecedented'?? Ok sure, we need to understand what it is- and what it means. But let me ask, how long have we've been watching the ozone hole over the North Pole? 10- 20 years tops? How many millions of years has the earth been around? I saw a mushroom in my backyard, that's unprecedented- but i only started looking or them since last week.

    October 4, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      Ok, does it make you feel better if we define unprecedented as not occurring before during a time of human observation?

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

      unprecedented defined as before human observation? I guess that's how all the climatologists define unprecedented heat and global warming. (Although they keep saying their researched into past levels – prior to human observation – support their claims)?

      October 4, 2011 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      " I guess that's how all the climatologists define unprecedented heat and global warming. (Although they keep saying their researched into past levels – prior to human observation – support their claims)?"

      So you say you guess thats how they base their claims and then go on to say how they mention other research so i guess your guess is wrong then.

      October 4, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. yowser

    @Smokey
    Thanks smokey, could you possibly reference that for me, I want to read accompanying data

    October 4, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  11. yowser

    @TD, that is excellent

    October 4, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. IHopper

    "Cold conditions alone are not enough to cause such a phenomenon (ozone loss),” Santee said, “but you also need man-
    made compounds."

    Someone call the RNC; they're going to have to spin stupid again for their puppets, er candidates.

    October 4, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  13. erich2112x

    Half a million tons of sulfur dioxide pumped into the atmosphere would do the trick. it has reflective particles that could easily block a lot of the dangerous rays from the sun. One little problem tho: it could also cool the earth, too much, which wouldn't be good, so ironically, we'd actually have to wait for global warming to actually use this sht. Incidentally, that's what it smells like too.

    October 4, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. yowser

    @billy
    I thought the point of the article was the extent of the 'hole' not whether or not it happens?

    October 4, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. Trolololol

    Really, no one knows what trolling is....?

    It's probably because of George Bush changed the education mandates of the school system, or because Obama is black. Either or.

    October 4, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9