The hole in the ozone layer measured an average of 23.2 million square kilometers (8.9 million square miles) between September 7 and October 13, 2022 – slightly smaller than last year, showing the hole is continuing to heal.
NASA and NOAA announced the good news after keeping a close on the ozone hole using instruments aboard the Aura, Suomi NPP, and NOAA-20 satellites.
The hole in the ozone layer refers to a patch high in the sky above Antarctica. The ozone layer is a region of the stratosphere between 15 and 30 kilometers (9.3 to 18.6 miles) above the Earth’s surface with a high concentration of the gas ozone compared to other parts of the atmosphere.
By absorbing much of the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, the ozone layer acts as a shield for life on our planet. However, in the latter half of the 20th century, it became apparent that human activity was destroying this invaluable atmospheric shelter, thinning the layer and creating a hole above Antarctica.
Scientists launching an ozonesonde attached to balloon to assess the ozone layer above the South Pole Station. Image credit: NOAA
The hole naturally fluctuates in size with the seasons. Each year around September, as the Southern Hemisphere slips into spring, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) break down ozone over the Antarctic, causing the ozone layer to break down and thin.
In recent years, there’s been significant progress in fixing the hole above the South Pole. In 1987, just seven years after scientists discovered CFCs were eroding the ozone layer, the manufacturing of such compounds began to be phased out under the Montreal Protocol. Thirty-five years on, solid progress has been made, as this latest review shows.
“Over time, steady progress is being made, and the hole is getting smaller,” Paul Newman, chief scientist for Earth sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a statement.
“We see some wavering as weather changes and other factors make the numbers wiggle slightly from day to day and week to week. But overall, we see it decreasing through the past two decades. The elimination of ozone-depleting substances through the Montreal Protocol is shrinking the hole,” explained Newman.