New data regarding the size of the much discussed “hole” in the ozone layer above Antarctica seems to reflect a decrease in size. The findings, chronicled in this University Herald article, appear to be a sign that many of the international treaties of the last few decades aimed at minimizing air pollution may be paying off. While scientists involved in the study are stopping short of calling the decrease a major victory, they do conclude that the smaller size of the whole indicates a step in the right direction.
With year over year decreases in size since 2006, the area of very thin ozone above Antarctica is about 7.3 million miles. While this sounds like an astoundingly large number, the coverage area of the hole was 8 million last year, and around 10 million in 2006. Researchers believe that the progress can be traced back to the Montreal Protocol of 1987. It was at the summit that many of the world’s nations agreed to be more conscious of protecting the earth’s ozone layer by limiting the emission of chlorofluorocarbons. Chlorofluorocarbons are generally agreed upon by the scientific community to have been the main cause of the hole’s initial formation, which is why limiting them has been a major contributor to the ozone gap’s shrinking size. If the hole continues to be repaired, some of the negative effects such as higher risk of skin cancer, plant damage, and general harm to the environment may begin to be mitigated.
Not everyone is pleased with the findings, however. NASA experts believe part of the reason the coverage size of the hole is smaller than in past years is because of the increase in average earth temperatures. NASA’s researchers believe that the observation of a smaller hole is a positive development, but may be tied to the larger issue of global climate change rather than simply a reduction of chemicals that harm the ozone being emitted into the air.
As with many global environmental trends, this is a complex issue that the scientific community will continue to monitor, but at least on the surface, it appears to be a positive trend.