The yawning hole in Earth’s ozone layer has shrunk 30 percent in size compared to last year, according to new measurements made by the European Space Agency’s Envisat satellite. This has lead people to wonder whether the ozone layer could actually be healing inspite of the increasing global warming.
The hole in the ozone is not a hole in the literal sense because ozone still exists over the continent but significant amounts of the gas are destroyed in this area because of the temperature and presence of damaging gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, once widely used in spray cans and refrigerators, deplete the earth’s protective layer. The hole has been forming in the extremely low temperatures that mark the end of Antarctic winter every year since the mid-1980s. Generally the hole is biggest around late September. Ozone is a form of oxygen. Its protective qualities make life as we know it possible. It keeps out ultraviolet radiation, which is dangerous to humans and animals. Less protection could increase risks of skin cancer and cataracts and affect biodiversity, scientists say.
Researchers are not certain if this year’s smaller ozone hole means the radiation-blocking layer is healing. One of the reasons put forward for the shrink is that this year’s ozone hole was less centered on the South Pole as in other years. This allows the cold air it to mix with warmer air, reducing the growth of the hole because ozone is depleted at temperatures less than -78 degrees Celsius.