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New data from NASA have alarmingly shown that the Antarctic ozone hole, which was expected to reduce in size with the emission cuts, is remaining the size of North America.

The hole in the thin layer of gas helps shield life on Earth from potentially harmful ultraviolet solar radiation that can cause diseases as skin cancers, grows and contracts throughout the year. Data has revealed that this hole has reached its maximum extent in September when monitors at the South Pole showed it to cover 24.1m square km. This is about 9% below the record maximum in 2000 but almost the same as in 2010, 2012 and 2013.

In relation to that, scientists have raised concerns about the reasons why the hole has not reduced more since the Montreal Protocol agreement was signed in 1987. Experts stress that this global agreement represents one of the world’s most successful instrument. This treaty bans the use of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), substances that were widely-used in household and industrial products such as refrigerators, spray cans, insulation foam and fire suppressants.

According to the chief scientist for atmospheres at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the ozone hole area is smaller than what we saw in the late-1990s and early 2000s. Studies have suggested that chlorine levels are decreasing. However, there are still strong doubts about whether a long-term Antarctic stratospheric temperature warming might be reducing this ozone depletion.

Dr Jonathan Shanklin, professor at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, is one of the three scientists who discovered the hole in the 1980s. We are on track to achieve good results, but the efforts to reduce the impact of the CFCs require programs and measures in the long term, the professor said.

Moreover, the interaction between climate change and the ozone hole is very complex. The professor has highlighted that this link has undermined and slowed the achievement of short-term results.

Additionally, the ozone hole itself is affecting the climate of Antarctica and Australia, and is being affected by it. Also, the ozone hole is changing the wind systems.

Furthermore, experts have argued that over the next 50 years the effects of climate change will increase. In this way, we will see different patterns of climate change.

In this framework, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) have recently suggested that there were positive signals that the ozone layer was on track to recovery: however, experts have warned that it might take a further 35 years or more to recover to 1980 level. The Montreal Protocol has played a crucial role: without its targets, the ozone hole could have increased tenfold by 2050.

The UNEP has stressed that, by 2030, the treaty will have prevented two million cases of skin cancer annually, averted damage to human eyes and immune systems, protecting also wildlife and agriculture.


The gLAWcal Team

EPSEI project

Friday, 31 October 2014

(Source: The Guardian)