by Angelo Ortea

Being currently tracked and monitored by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (funded by the European commission), a rare hole has opened in the ozone layer – the Earth’s protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays – above the Arctic.

Scientists explained that the unusually low temperatures in the Arctic region resulted to a more stable polar vortex and the existence of ozone-depleting substances such as bromine and chlorine (from human activities) caused the ozone hole.

Throughout the first months of 2020, the hole reached a record-breaking and unexpected size of 1 million square kilometers as of April – the largest of its kind ever detected.

Not a sign for alarm

While Arctic ozone holes of this size are a rarity, it is an unalarming anomaly that poses no danger to humans unless it moves further south which would increase the risk of sunburn to the inhabitants of populated areas to the south of Arctic region such as Greenland.

However, based on the hole’s current trend, it is expected to heal and disappear through the following weeks.

Director of the CAMS, Vincent-Henri Peuch stated that the hole is “principally a geophysical curiosity…lower temperatures and a more stable vortex than usual over the Arctic triggered the formation of polar stratospheric clouds and the catalytic destruction of ozone.”

The director added that the formation of this rare hole has no direct indication of the climate crisis and it is only usual that the Arctic goes through similar cycles of seasonal ozone depletion with that of the Antarctic region.

He also insisted that temperature fluctuations are also common, and the hole will start to recede as the temperature increases.

‘Healing’ ozone

While a hole over the Arctic is a rare event, and as the world continues to grapple with the spread of the coronavirus, the much larger ozone hole detected over the Antarctic in 1985 was recorded the smallest in 35 years last November 2019.

The “healing” of the detrimental ozone hole shows the prosperity of all the efforts to phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and the reduction of all ozone-depleting chemicals since the ratification of 1987 Montreal Protocol signed by 197 countries.

The pact has helped reduce the carbon footprint which contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer. COVID-19 shutdowns have drastically cut air pollution and reduced greenhouse gas emissions – there is no denying that measures currently placed across multiple countries to curb the coronavirus outbreak had a positive impact on the environment.

The hole observed in the Arctic region is said to have no relation with the ozone-depleting substances which led to Peuch insisting that the discovery is “a reminder that one should not take the Montreal Protocol measures for granted.”

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