Whenever issues regarding the environment come up, worries about the ozone layer usually follow. The ozone layer is the part of the atmosphere that protects the Earth from harsh UV rays, sort of like a layer of sunscreen. Scientists are usually concerned that holes in the ozone layer leave the Earth vulnerable, but the latest update from NASA provides some optimistic news.
NASA says the hole in the ozone above Antarctica has shrunk to its smallest size.
Scientists first started monitoring this particular hole in the ozone in 1982. The hole fluctuates in size throughout the year and is usually at its largest during the coldest months in the southern hemisphere, from late September to early October. Experts say the hole is usually around 8 million square miles during this time of year. But, right now, the hole covers less than 3.9million square miles.
Chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Paul Newman said it is “great news for ozone in the Southern Hemisphere.”
The smaller hole is reportedly thanks to unusually warm temperatures high above Antarctica. This is because the polar stratospheric clouds that emit ozone-destroying free radicals form more infrequently in warm weather. While the shrinking ozone hole is good news, scientists also urge people to remember that this is occurring because of overall warmer global temperatures.
Newman said, “It’s important to recognize that what we’re seeing this year is due to warmer stratospheric temperatures. It’s not a sign that atmospheric ozone is suddenly on a fast track to recovery.”
NASA and NOAA monitor the ozone hole–which is not actually a hole, but rather a depletion in the ozone–using satellites like NASA’s Aura satellite, the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite and NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System NOAA-20 satellite.