NASA and NOAA announced today that the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica reached its annual maximum size on Sept. 22. Highlights include:
- The Antarctic ozone hole reached its annual maximum size on Sept. 22, covering 8.2 million square miles — the area of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined.
- That’s smaller than the record maximum of 11.5 million square miles reached on Sept. 6, 2000, and also smaller than last year’s maximum size of 10.1 million square miles.
- Scientists attribute the smaller ozone hole in 2012 to warmer temperatures in the Antarctic lower stratosphere.
“The ozone hole mainly is caused by chlorine from human-produced chemicals, and these chlorine levels are still sizable in the Antarctic stratosphere,” said NASA atmospheric scientist Paul Newman of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Natural fluctuations in weather patterns resulted in warmer stratospheric temperatures this year. These temperatures led to a smaller ozone hole.”
Read the full story here. Also read about the history of the ozone hole and its path toward recovery, and then check out the satellite-based image that in 1985 revealed for the first time the size and magnitude of the ozone hole. Finally, visit NASA’s Ozone Hole Watch to follow the state of the Antarctic ozone hole throughout the year.