South Pole ozone hole slightly smaller this year (Update)

Oct 23, 2013 by Seth Borenstein

Scientists say warm upper air this September and October helped shrink the man-made ozone hole near the South Pole slightly.

The hole is an area in the atmosphere with low ozone concentrations. It is normally at its biggest this time of year. The U.S. space agency says on average it covered 8.1 million square miles (20.9 million sq. kilometers) this season. That's 6 percent smaller than the average since 1990.

High-altitude ozone shields Earth from ultraviolet radiation.

NASA chief atmospheric scientist Paul A. Newman says the main reason for this year's result is local weather. The upper air has been warmer than normal, which led to fewer polar stratospheric clouds. These clouds are where ozone is destroyed by chlorine and bromine, which come from man-made products.

James Butler, director of the global monitoring division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Lab, said Wednesday that the new figures are "sort of encouraging news."

"It's not getting worse," Butler said. "That's a good sign."

Butler said it stopped getting worse around the late 1990s. But he added, "We can't say yet that it's a recovery."

Newman and Butler said they can't tell if the ozone hole changes are related to man-made global warming.

While warm upper air helped keep the ozone hole small, the surface of the Southern Hemisphere was also warm last month, with the second-highest average temperature on record for September, NOAA announced Wednesday. Records go back to 1880.

For the entire globe, last month tied 2003 for the fourth hottest September on record. September was the 343rd consecutive month that global temperatures have been higher than the 20th century average.

This year, after nine months, is on track to be the sixth warmest on record globally.

For the United States, this was the sixth warmest September on record and the hottest since 2005. But the nation's average temperature over the first nine months of the year is only the 28th highest on record.

Explore further: Suomi NPP satellite spots birth of Tropical Cyclone Kate

More information: NASA's ozone hole watch: ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/
NOAA's global temperatures for September: www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2013/9

3 /5 (4 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

2012 Antarctic ozone hole second smallest in 20 years

Oct 24, 2012

The average area covered by the Antarctic ozone hole this year was the second smallest in the last 20 years, according to data from NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites. ...

Study pinpoints causes of 2011 Arctic ozone hole

Mar 11, 2013

(Phys.org) —A combination of extreme cold temperatures, man-made chemicals and a stagnant atmosphere were behind what became known as the Arctic ozone hole of 2011, a new NASA study finds.

Is the ozone layer on the road to recovery?

Feb 10, 2013

(Phys.org)—Satellites show that the recent ozone hole over Antarctica was the smallest seen in the past decade. Long-term observations also reveal that Earth's ozone has been strengthening following international ...

Recommended for you

Suomi NPP satellite spots birth of Tropical Cyclone Kate

Dec 24, 2014

The tropical low pressure area previously known as System 95S organized and strengthened into Tropical Cyclone Kate on Dec. 24 and the Cocos Keeling Islands are expected to feel its effects on Dec. 25 and ...

NASA looks at some severe holiday weather from space

Dec 24, 2014

Severe weather in the form of tornadoes is not something people expect on Christmas week but a storm system on Dec. 23 brought tornadoes to Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana. As the storm moved, NASA's RapidScat ...

NASA satellite spots Christmas

Dec 24, 2014

If you're looking for Christmas NASA's Aqua satellite spotted it in the Southern Indian Ocean. It's a coral atoll (a ring-shaped reef, island, or chain of islands made up of coral) in the northern Line Islands ...

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.