Antarctic ozone hole could show initial signs of recovery within 10 years

September 29, 2011

The annual hole in the Antarctic ozone layer could show initial signs of recovery within 10 years, according to a new analysis of 25 years of data collected by NOAA scientists and colleagues at the South Pole. ozonesonde release in the dark

NOAA has long tracked ozone levels high in the Antarctic atmosphere with balloon-borne instruments, keeping an eye on the annual springtime opening and closing of the ozone hole. The ozone layer protects Earth from some damaging incoming solar radiation; an ozone hole allows more incoming radiation to hit the surface, elevating the risk of skin cancer, crop damage, and other environmental impacts.

The research team – led by Birgit Hassler of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Boulder, Colo. – analyzed the rates at which springtime chemical reactions ate away the ozone above the South Pole during the last 25 years.

The team related those “ozone loss rates” to the atmosphere’s levels of ozone-depleting chemicals, which are declining in abundance because of the international Montreal Protocol agreement to protect the ozone layer.

Projecting that relationship into the future, the research team calculated that between 2017 and 2021, the South Pole data will show that ozone is not being lost as quickly during the spring – an early sign that the Antarctic ozone hole is healing.

The research was published online today in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Related Links

ESRL's ozone pages

South Pole ozone hole animation

Scientific Assessments of Ozone Depletion, including 2010 report