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Large ozone holes reappear over Antarctica: Study

A new study says the ozone hole above Antarctica has been amongst the largest on record over the past three years

In this Nasa false-color image, the blue and purple shows the hole in Earth's protective ozone layer over Antarctica on 30 October, 2023.
In this Nasa false-color image, the blue and purple shows the hole in Earth's protective ozone layer over Antarctica on 30 October, 2023. (AP)

Climate change has led to new sources of ozone depletion. Now, a new study has revealed that in the past three years, there has been a re-emergence of large, long-lived ozone holes over Antarctica.

The ozone layer in the Earth's atmosphere blocks harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun to protect people from effects such as skin diseases. The study conducted by researchers at the University of Otago has revealed worrying trends in ozone holes over Antarctica. Contrary to public perception, the ozone hole has been alarmingly large and persistent from 2020 to 2022.

Also read: How healing the ozone layer helps us fight climate change

This is an important finding as “understanding ozone variability remains of high importance due to the major role Antarctic stratospheric ozone plays in climate variability across the Southern Hemisphere,” the researchers wrote in a recent paper published in Nature Communications.

In this study, the researchers analysed monthly and daily ozone changes at different altitudes and latitudes within the Antarctic ozone hole and found that there is much less ozone in the centre of the ozone hole compared to 19 years ago.

This means that the hole is not only larger in area but also deeper throughout most of the spring,” study author Hannah Kessenich said in a Press Trust of India (PTI) report. The researchers have also said that the ozone hole above Antarctica has been amongst the largest on record over the past three years.

“We made connections between this drop in ozone and changes in the air that is arriving into the polar vortex above Antarctica. This reveals the recent, large ozone holes may not be caused just by chlorofluorocarbons,” the researchers said.

Considering ozone-modulating factors, the 2022 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion predicted that the Antarctic ozone hole should be on track to recover by 2065. However, the latest findings indicate that this recovery might be delayed because of “previously unaccounted for chlorine release from wildfire aerosols and anthropogenic emissions,” the researchers explained in the paper.

Moreover, in the report, Kessenich also said that recent wildfires and cyclones in Australia and New Zealand and the Antarctic ozone hole are part of this picture.

Ozone depletion is a disturbing occurrence in a world that’s already facing the catastrophic effects of climate change. “While separate from the impact of greenhouse gases on climate, the ozone hole interacts with the delicate balance in the atmosphere. Because ozone usually absorbs UV light, a hole in the ozone layer can not only cause extreme UV levels on the surface of Antarctica, but it can also drastically impact where heat is stored in the atmosphere,” Kessenich explains in the PTI report.

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