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Whither the ozone hole?

Whither the ozone hole?

Maybe it is my age, but I can remember when the ozone hole was considered to be a major environmental issue. However, these day it hardly gets a mention, it has rather dropped from public awareness. The trouble is the problem of the ozone hole hasn’t gone away, it is still every much with us! Today being the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer I though I should publish something here.

The ozone hole is often thought of as being a southern hemisphere problem. It is well known that there have been a marked increase in malignant melanomas in people living in Australasia over the last twenty years. This believed to be linked to the thinning of the ozone layer which allows increasing amounts of damaging ultraviolet light to reach the surface of the planet.

In order to try and deal with this problem the Montréal protocol was signed on this day in 1987. This lead to banning the use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and the slow phasing out of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), the Montreal Protocol has often been called the most successful international environmental agreement to date, with a 2001 NASA report showing the ozone thinning over Antarctica had remained the same thickness for the previous three years.

However, in subsequent years the size of the hole has been seen to fluctuate and it is still very much with us:

This is a view of ozone concentration over the Antarctic today.

Seeing such an image it is all too easy to think of this as being a problem for the southern hemisphere and not something that will directly effect us in the northern hemisphere. This is not the case, observations from Northern Canada have shown the largest ozone loss over high northern latitudes following the coldest winter yet seen in the Arctic stratosphere.

This is a view of ozone concentration over the Arctic today.

So, as you can see there is no reason to be complacent about this issue, it is still with us and it is one that is not going away. It should also come as no surprise that the rates of skin cancer (malignant melanoma) is also on the rise in the northern hemisphere, just something to think about.

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