AURA satellite peers into Earth's ozone hole

Dec 07, 2005
The Ozone Hole: 2005

NASA researchers, using data from the agency's AURA satellite, determined the seasonal ozone hole that developed over Antarctica this year is smaller than in previous years.

NASA's 2005 assessment of the size and thickness of the ozone layer was the first based on observations from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on the agency's Aura spacecraft. Aura was launched in 2004.

This year's ozone hole measured 9.4 million square miles at its peak between September and mid-October, which was slightly larger than last year's peak. The size of the ozone hole in 1998, the largest ever recorded, averaged 10.1 million square miles. For 10 of the past 12 years, the Antarctic ozone hole has been larger than 7.7 million square miles. Before 1985, it measured less than 4 million square miles.

The protective ozone layer over Antarctica annually undergoes a seasonal change, but since the first satellite measurements in 1979, the ozone hole has gotten larger. Human-produced chlorine and bromine chemicals can lead to the destruction of ozone in the stratosphere. By international agreement, these damaging chemicals were banned in 1995, and their levels in the atmosphere are decreasing.

Another important factor in how much ozone is destroyed each year is the temperature of the air high in the atmosphere. As with temperatures on the ground, some years are colder than others. When it's colder in the stratosphere, more ozone is destroyed. The 2005 ozone hole was approximately 386,000 square miles larger than it would have been in a year with normal temperatures, because it was colder than average. Only twice in the last decade has the ozone hole shrunk to the size it typically was in the late 1980s. Those years, 2002 and 2004, were the warmest of the period.

Scientists also monitor how much ozone there is in the atmosphere from the ground to space. The thickness of the Antarctic ozone layer was the third highest of the last decade, as measured by the lowest reading recorded during the year. The level was 102 Dobson Units (the system of measurement designated to gauge ozone thickness). That is approximately one-half as thick as the layer before 1980 during the same time of year.

The Ozone Monitoring Instrument is the latest in a series of ozone-observing instruments flown by NASA over the last two decades. This instrument provides a more detailed view of ozone and is also able to monitor chemicals involved in ozone destruction. The instrument is a contribution to the mission from the Netherlands' Agency for Aerospace Programs in collaboration with the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute is the principal investigator on the instrument.

Source: NASA

Explore further: NASA's reliance on outsourcing launches causes a dilemma for the space agency

Related Stories

2014 Antarctic ozone hole holds steady

Oct 30, 2014

The Antarctic ozone hole reached its annual peak size on Sept. 11, according to scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The size of this year's hole was 24.1 million ...

NASA's ten-year-old Aura satellite tracks pollutants

Jul 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Aura satellite, celebrating its 10th anniversary on July 15, has provided vital data about the cause, concentrations and impact of major air pollutants. With instruments providing key ...

Previously unknown atmospheric phenomenon discovered

Apr 04, 2014

Recent research results show that an atmospheric hole over the tropical West Pacific is reinforcing ozone depletion in the polar regions and could have a significant influence on the climate of the Earth.

Recommended for you

Hubble view: Wolf-Rayet stars, intense and short-lived

21 hours ago

This NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Hubble Space Telescope picture shows a galaxy named SBS 1415+437 (also called SDSS CGB 12067.1), located about 45 million light-years from Earth. SBS 1415+437 is a Wolf-Rayet ...

Crash test assesses plane emergency locator transmitters

21 hours ago

The Cessna 172 airplane dangled 82 feet in the air – looking almost like it was coming in for a landing, except for the cables attaching it to a huge gantry at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, ...

NASA image: Curiosity's stars and stripes

22 hours ago

This view of the American flag medallion on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity was taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 44th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Sept. 19, 2012). ...

NASA image: Stellar sparklers that last

22 hours ago

While fireworks only last a short time here on Earth, a bundle of cosmic sparklers in a nearby cluster of stars will be going off for a very long time. NGC 1333 is a star cluster populated with many young ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.