In an astounding revelation from the science world, scientists from MIT and other institutes have announced that the “first fingerprints of healing” have been identified over the Antarctic ozone layer.
According to MIT News, scientists found that the annual ozone hole that appears in September above the Antarctic has “shrunk” more than 4 million square kilometers (that’s about the size of the contiguous United States) since the year 2000 when ozone depletion was at its most severe. Although the repair was slowed at times due to natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, the overall outlook has scientists excited.
“We can now be confident that the things we’ve done have put the planet on a path to heal,” says lead author Susan Solomon, Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science at MIT. “Which is pretty good for us, isn’t it? Aren’t we amazing humans, that we did something that created a situation that we decided collectively, as a world, ‘Let’s get rid of these molecules’? We got rid of them, and now we’re seeing the planet respond.”
“I think people, myself included, had been too focused on October, because that’s when the ozone hole is enormous, in its full glory,” Solomon continued. “But October is also subject to the slings and arrows of other things that vary, like slight changes in meteorology. September is a better time to look because chlorine chemistry is firmly in control of the rate at which the hole forms at that time of year. That point hasn’t really been made strongly in the past.”
The researchers tracked the yearly opening of the Antarctic ozone hole in the month of September, from 2000 to 2015. They analyzed ozone measurements taken from weather balloons and satellites, as well as satellite measurements of sulfur dioxide emitted by volcanoes, which can also enhance ozone depletion. And, they tracked meteorological changes, such as temperature and wind, which can shift the ozone hole back and forth.
They then compared their yearly September ozone measurements with model simulations that predict ozone levels based on the amount of chlorine that scientists have estimated to be present in the atmosphere from year to year. The researchers found that the ozone hole has declined compared to its peak size in 2000, shrinking by more than 4 million square kilometers by 2015. They further found that this decline matched the model’s predictions, and that more than half the shrinkage was due solely to the reduction in atmospheric chlorine.
The 2014 video below shows the healing process:
Back in 2014, a United Nations study estimated that the ozone layer would be fully replenished by 2050.
“There are positive indications that the ozone layer is on track to recovery towards the middle of the century,” UN Undersecretary General Achim Steiner said. “The Montreal Protocol — one of the world’s most successful environmental treaties — has protected the stratospheric ozone layer and avoided enhanced UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface.”