Ozone hole over Antarctica among largest on record

The hole in the Ozone layer above Antarctica is currently one of the biggest on record according to European satellite measurements.

The ‘ozone depleting area’ reached 26 million square kilometres on 16 September 2023, an area three times the size of Brazil, according to the European Space Agency.

European Space Agency satellites have been measuring global ozone data for almost three decades. The recent measurements were taken by the Copernicus Sentinel 5P satellite, launched in 2017 as part of the agency’s environmental monitoring mission.

While the news appears bleak, the reasons for the large size of the hole are yet to be established. 

The ozone hole is known to fluctuate depending on the strength of winds in the Antarctic region, and generally reaches its maximum size between mid-September and mid-October. 

Ozone levels usually return to normal by the end of December, the European Space Agency says. 

One possible reason for the larger-than-usual hole this year could be the result of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano eruption in Tonga in January 2022, however the agency says further research is needed.

Senior scientist Antje Inness from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service says in a statement: “Our operational ozone monitoring and forecasting service shows that the 2023 ozone hole got off to an early start and has grown rapidly since mid-August”.

The phase out of ozone-depleting substances under the 1987 Montreal Protocol has led scientists to predict the eventual recovery of the ozone layer. 

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