The Antarctic ozone hole is stabilizing but will not fully recover until about 2070, according to scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. And it will take until 2025 for NASA scientists to gauge the impact of efforts to heal the ozone hole, LiveScience reported
Researchers presented their findings Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
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Ozone-depleting chemicals widely used for refrigerants and aerosols created the ozone hole. They were gradually phased out through an international agreement first signed in 1987. And while the amount of the chemicals in the atmosphere has slowly declined, wind patterns make measuring the hole with accuracy difficult.
"Ozone is produced in the tropics, but it's transported by the winds from the tropics to the polar region," Anne Douglass, a scientist with the Aura project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said Wednesday at a news conference. That transport "varies a little bit from year to year."
Measuring the hole, which over the years has shrunk and grown, may also miss what’s really going on as far as environmental progress, researchers said.
In 2006, the ozone hole grew larger than ever, the Los Angeles Times reported
It reached a similar size in 2011, when researchers discovered the size of the hole was a result of winds from the tropics carrying less ozone to the area than in the years before.
"This is a meteorological effect, it has nothing to do with chemistry," said study co-author Susan Strahan, a NASA Goddard atmospheric chemist, Live Science reported.
The ozone layer stands 12 to 19 miles above the Earth's surface and shields life on Earth by protecting it from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Scientists expect the ozone hole to continue to fluctuate over the next two decades.
"It's not going to be a smooth ride," said Susan Strahan, a senior research scientist at NASA, according to the Times. "There will be some bumps in the road, but overall the trend is downward.”
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