Arctic Ozone Hole Of March 2011

In 2011, a huge hole occurred in the ozone layer above the Arctic. This is the largest ever recorded in the Northern hemisphere. Scientists believe that this may occur again and they also fear that the next one may be still larger. It is a known fact that ozone layer in the stratosphere protects us from many problems. Especially, it protects us from the Sun's ultraviolet radiation that causes skin cancers and also cataracts.

But, unfortunately, an ozone hole has been occurring above the Antarctic every summer since the 1980s. Scientists are very much concerned about this phenomenon because during certain years, the holes used to be so large that they covered the entire continent and invaded South America also. Scientists also feel that these ozone holes may have been one of the main causes for the surge in skin cancers in certain parts of South America. If these events become extremely big, they can eat away up to 70 per cent of the ozone layer and it may take many months for recovery.

All these years, the matching holes on the Arctic used to be smaller. But, the event that occurred during March 2011 was quite huge because it was caused by the ozone-eating chlorine chemicals. It was a combination of powerful wind patterns and intense and high cold that created the right environment for these chlorine chemicals to cause the damage.

The journal "Nature" reported the findings of the ozone hole of March 2011. This event opened over the northern parts of Russia and a few parts of Greenland and Norway. Scientists firmly believe that the people living in these places might have been exposed to the UV radiation of the Sun. So, for the first time, the ozone hole or the chemical ozone destruction caused in the Arctic was as big as or even bigger than those that used to occur in the Antarctic. The scientists who mainly studied this belonged to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and this team was led by Gloria Manney.

Scientists have always been insisting that man-made chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons are mainly responsible for destroying the ozone layer in the stratosphere. It has been proved that sunlight has the capacity to break up complex chemicals into simpler forms. These simple forms of chemicals can react with ozone and destroy its layer.

It is true that there is a U.N. treaty to stop the use of such chemicals but in reality, it may take many decades before industries stop producing them completely. Though the atmospheric conditions above the Arctic have never seen such a destruction of ozone layer, there was a very strong high-altitude wind pattern during March, 2011. This led to very cold conditions in the stratosphere. The extremely cold conditions triggered by this strong high-altitude wind pattern, the polar vortex, lasted for many months. These are the perfect conditions for chlorine to act fast to destroy the ozone layer. If this Arctic ozone hole becomes an annual and regular affair, it will be extremely dangerous for the people who will be exposed to sun's UV radiation. The biological risks will be more if the vortex moves into the densely populated mid-latitudes as it happened during April 2011.

Raman Kuppuswamy has been writing informative and interesting articles on diverse topics. You may kindly visit and read his articles on various other topics.


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