Researchers: Ozone hole formed over the Arctic for the first time

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A large ozone hole has formed for the first time over the North Pole. For two weeks now, the ozone layer in the Arctic has fallen below the thickness of the ozone layer. An area of 20 million square kilometers is affected.

According to a polar researcher, a large ozone hole has formed for the first time above the North Pole. In the Arctic, the thickness of the ozone layer, which defines an ozone hole over the Antarctic, has been below the ozone layer thickness for two weeks continuously, Markus Rex, head of the department of atmospheric physics at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, explained on Wednesday.

Air masses could come to Europe
“In the region of the maximum of the ozone layer, the loss is around 90 percent,” says Rex. This affects an area about three times the size of Greenland. All in all, an area of 20 million square kilometres, ten times the size of Greenland, is affected – but sometimes with less ozone loss. According to Rex, the reasons are a particularly strong polar vortex this winter and low temperatures in the stratosphere, where the ozone layer is located.

“At the moment, these air masses are still trapped and are located above the central Arctic, so here in Europe there is no need to worry about getting sunburned faster than normal. But it’s conceivable that air masses could drift out of the central Arctic in April and come into Europe.

The production of ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) has been banned for a long time. “If we didn’t have this, the situation would be much worse this year,” said Rex. However, the substances are very long-lived, he said.

The ozone hole over the Antarctic, the discovery of which led to the adoption of the Montreal Protocol in 1985 and thus to the gradual ban on CFCs, seems to be slowly closing. In 2019 it was smaller than it has been for about 30 years.

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Mette Frederiksen is a The Washington Newsday correspondent. With her coverage of general science, NASA and the interface between technology and society, Frederiksen has been in the Science Desk's Technology Beat since joining Washington Newsday in 2018.

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