A rare and very large hole has opened up in the ozone layer over the Arctic.
A “geophysical curiosity” has appeared over the Arctic, resulting in a record-sized ozone hole that could pose a risk to northern-hemisphere dwellers should its location radically shift.
According to The Guardian, a team of researchers has tracked the hole over the last number of days.
The hole was created by unusually low atmospheric temperatures above the north pole, which created a stable polar vortex. With ozone-destroying chemicals such as chlorine and bromine left relatively stable in the atmosphere – brought on by human activities – the large hole formed.
Temperatures have begun increasing in the Arctic region, resulting in a slowing of the ozone’s depletion. This is because the polar air mixes with ozone-rich air from lower altitudes.
A more ever-present ozone hold can be found over Antarctica, which last year was at its smallest size in decades. However, similar to the current Arctic hole, this was described by researchers as “just a fluke of the weather”.
However, experts expect the hole to disappear in the coming weeks and probably won’t pose any problems for humans.
“It’s the unusual temperatures this year that led to unusual levels of polar stratospheric clouds, which led to unusual ozone depletion,” Paul Newman, chief scientist for earth sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., told media.
The hole is not related to the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns that have caused air pollution to plummet dramatically and lowered greenhouse gas emissions.
“The hole is principally a geophysical curiosity,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, explained to media. “We monitored unusual dynamic conditions, which drive the process of chemical depletion of ozone. [Those dynamics] allowed for lower temperatures and a more stable vortex than usual over the Arctic, which then triggered the formation of polar stratospheric clouds and the catalytic destruction of ozone.”