Nature,  News

Largest Hole In Ozone Layer Over Arctic Has Closed

The largest-ever tear in the ozone layer over the Arctic has finally closed, scientists have confirmed.

The hole formed earlier this year and was being tracked by experts at Copernicus’ Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS).

The ozone typically sits between nine and 22 miles above the Earth’s surface and is a protective shield that is responsible for absorbing the sun’s UV rays, which are harmful to humans and the planet.

According to scientists, a rupture this big had not been seen for almost a decade.

However, while some had assumed the ‘unusual’ tear was man-made, researchers at CAMS claimed that this was probably not the case, instead it was caused by a particularly strong and ‘long-lived’ polar vortex.

Therefore, the reduction in pollution created during lockdown has likely made no impact. But it’s still great news, nonetheless.

Confirming the much-welcomed development, a spokesperson for CAMS wrote on Twitter: “The unprecedented 2020 northern hemisphere #OzoneHole has come to an end. The #PolarVortex split, allowing #ozone-rich air into the Arctic, closely matching last week’s forecast from the #CopernicusAtmosphere Monitoring Service.

“COVID19 and the associated lockdowns probably had nothing to do with this. It’s been driven by an unusually strong and long-lived polar vortex, and isn’t related to air quality changes.”

But while the tear above the Arctic is not the result of man-made pollution, the one that sits over the Antarctic is.

The result of pollutant chemicals such as chlorine and bromine, an enormous hole over the Antarctic has formed annually for the past 35 years.

However, there is cause for some optimism. That’s because last year scientists recorded that the hole had reached its smallest size since it was discovered.

This comes after scientist announced that after decades of decline the ozone layer was starting to heal.

Lead author of the recent study, Antara Banerjee, a CIRES Visiting Fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder who works in the Chemical Sciences Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said: “This study adds to growing evidence showing the profound effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol.

“Not only has the treaty spurred healing of the ozone layer, it’s also driving recent changes in Southern Hemisphere air circulation patterns.”