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Published:November 4th, 2012 09:58 EST
NASA Scientists Discover the Antarctic Ozone Hole Smallest in Two Decades

NASA Scientists Discover the Antarctic Ozone Hole Smallest in Two Decades

By Ron G Anselm

I remember as a kid in third grade science hearing about different science terms such as the ozone layer and smog. I didn`t really know what my third grade teacher was really talking about.  I also didn`t realize how important those terms would be to our planet and how important it is to have our planet protected by the ozone layer which keeps out harmful ultraviolet rays that has now become a big issue with the onset of global warming.

Growing up in Southern California and especially in Northridge we used to have such bad air that there would actually be smog alerts where you would not be allowed to go outside for recess and you had to eat your lunch in the classroom.

The air at times was so bad it felt like you had the onset of COPD disease coming on since after a day of breathing brown air you had a hard time breathing that night. Back then, there were no EPA Regulations or car exhaust standards to limit the amount of toxins that filled the air in Southern, California and filled the air like a 405 Freeway gridlock on a hot summer afternoon. The air on those days was so bad when it was time for the beautiful California sunset that looms over the West like a blanket of finely tuned colors, you couldn`t see it. All you saw was miles of brown air that looked like someone had taken a paint brush soaked with brown paint and slid it across the Western sky. Since then, there has been strict regulations set by the EPA on car exhaust testing and various other regulations on the release of toxins in the air but this has really come a couple of decades too late or should we say, "better late than never?"

NASA is of course involved in monitoring the ozone layer and the condition of it and NOAA (National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration) has been like their right hand man. NOAA`s satellites has recently detected the area or square miles that is covered in Antarctica by what is known as the "ozone hole" or what probably looks like a small piece of Swiss cheese if you were looking from space down and discovered it was the second smallest in the last twenty-years than it has ever been according to NOAA satellites.

Scientists have set the hypothesis or educated guess as to why this is to warmer temperatures in the Antarctic lower stratosphere. The ozone hole that sits over that part of Antarctica like a an old man`s heel sticking out of the back of his sock reached a maximum size a few months ago which covered about 8.2 million square miles which would equate to an area of square miles the size of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined. When the recent measurement data was revealed a few weeks ago it showed the hole had shrunk to a maximum size of about 6.9 million square miles. So, does this mean our damaged ozone that has more holes in it than a dartboard at a local Pub in Scotland is now starting to repair itself? "Not so fast yet. "

Paul Newman (not the late actor) of NASA`s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland commented on one of the reasons for large hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica by saying, "The ozone hole mainly is caused by chlorine from human-produced chemicals, and these chlorine levels are still sizable in the Antarctic stratosphere. Natural fluctuations in weather patterns resulted in warmer stratospheric temperatures this year. These temperatures led to smaller ozone hole." (Newman, P.)

One of the main jobs of the ozone layer is to keep out harmful ultraviolet rays which can cause skin cancer. If any of you ever have laid on the beach in Santa Monica, Venice, or Malibu on a cloudy day when the ultraviolet rays stream though the beach haze like angry wasps attacking their prey then you know what those rays do to your skin if you are just starting your suntanning sessions for the summer and your skin is whiter than a snow ball glistening in the sun. I did that one time and looked like a red onion that was in a lot of pain. I`ll never do that again without applying strong sunscreen.

Scientists began monitoring the ozone hole when it first started rearing its ugly head (so to speak) in the early 1980s. So, to answer the question of is the ozone starting to repair itself? Scientists believe that if this is true and the ozone layer is starting to rebuild itself it will not be until about the year 2065 before the hole in the ozone over Antarctica would be back to its pre-1980s state.

The lengthy recovery is because of the long lifetimes of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere. Overall atmospheric ozone no longer is declining as concentrations of ozone-depleting substances decrease. The decrease is the result of an international agreement regulating the production of certain chemicals. (

Another good positive that scientists discovered last month was the change in the concentration of ozone over the Antarctic. The measurement of the total minimum value of ozone stood fast at 124 (DU) or Dobson Units. The NOAA ground measurements at the South Pole of the Antarctic measured at 136 (DU) or Dobson Units.

Scientists can post this data with confidence because this is the first year that data on the growth of the ozone hole has been observed using an ozone monitoring instrument attached to the Suomi National Polar orbiting satellite (NPP) The instrument is known as the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS). The function and operation of this instrument is tailored and based on the functions of other successful data mapping instruments that have been used by NASA in the past such as the (TOMS) or the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer and the Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet instrument (SBUV/2), which have flown on multiple satellites. The OMPS technology dates back to the early 1970s and is still used today.

In addition to measuring and observing the annual formation and extent of the ozone hole, scientists are also hoping the OMPS technology will help them better understand the ozone destruction located in the middle and upper stratospheres with the Nadir Profiler. The ozone measurements and variations in the lower stratosphere will be measured with the Limb Profiler.

Pawan K. Bhartia who is the NASA atmospheric physicist and OMPS Limb Instrument lead commented on this by stating, "OMPS Limb looks sideways, and it can measure ozone as a function of height. This OMPS instrument allows us to more closely see the vertical development of Antarctic ozone depletion in the lower stratosphere where the ozone hole occurs." (Pawan, B.)

With this new technology and monitoring by NASA scientists maybe one day we can sit back and hear that science found a way to repair the damage man has caused to the ozone that is leading to a planet meltdown with the onset of the signs of global warming.  However, in the meantime, until that may and may not happen two words of advice; if you ever go to the beach in Southern California and decide to lay out on the soft sand that blankets the coast there, make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and put it on otherwise you will look like a dark red onion from the strong and harmful ultraviolet rays that penetrate the ozone over that area.  Also do your part to help take care of our planet and care about our environment. Our kids one day and their kids one day will thank you for keeping what one day will become their planet and environment and will be for their right to enjoy it.



Retrieved 2012.

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