Researchers from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Earth Observation Center (EOC) used Earth-observation satellites to determine that the ozone hole over Antarctica currently extends more than 26 million square kilometers—an area larger than the North American continent. It’s approximately 2.5 million square kilometers larger than at the same time in 2014, and just less than the record in 2006, when it was 27 million square kilometers.
Intense ozone depletion over Antarctica recurs annually, because the concentration of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) becomes enriched while low temperatures prevail during the southern hemisphere winter. Now in the southern hemisphere spring, additional sunlight causes these substances to exert their ozone-depleting effect. In recent years, the ozone hole appeared to have stabilised, suggesting a gradual recovery of the ozone layer. This year, however, the ozone hole formed one month later and now is almost as large as it was nine years ago.
“This example shows the enormous importance of Earth observation—such large-scale change processes can only be observed and understood with satellites,” says Stefan Dech, director of the EOC.
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