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Arctic Ozone

Arctic Ozone

Arctic Map from

An Arctic Ozone Hole, if similar in size to the Antarctic Ozone Hole, could  expose over 700+ million people, wildlife and plants to dangerous UV ray levels. The likely hood of this happening seems inevitable based on the deterioration of ozone layer caused by the effects of global warming on the upper atmosphere.

Arctic  Ozone Hole

Area that may be affected by formation of Arctic Ozone Hole

is the yellow area within the red circle


Area that may be affected by formation of Arctic Ozone Hole is above the redline


World Population Density Map

Area directly affected is above the red line on these maps


"The formation of an Ozone Hole occurring over the Arctic will likely happen within the next 20 years"-

Jonathan Shanklin one of The BAS scientists who discovered the Antarctic ozone hole-1999

Professor Jonathan Shanklin of The British Antarctic Study said the loss itself of ozone and the greenhouse effect is causing the upper atmosphere to become colder, which is a condition that facilitates ozone destruction. Professor Shanklin was speaking to Alex Kirby of the BBC Radio Four's environment program Costing the Earth and reportedly said the following -

Jonathan Shanklin of The BAS making ozone measurements 

© British Antarctic Survey

"The atmosphere is changing, and one of the key changes is that the ozone layer is getting colder. And when it gets colder, particularly during the winter, we can get clouds actually forming in the ozone layer, and these clouds are the key factor.


Chemistry can take place on them that activates the chlorine and makes it very much easier for it to destroy the ozone. It's getting colder because of the greenhouse gases that are being liberated by all the emissions we have at the surface. 

We think that within the next 20 years we are likely to see an ozone hole perhaps as big as the present one over Antarctica but over the North Pole."

Joseph Farman, Brian Gardiner and Jonathan Shanklin, are the BAS scientists who discovered the Antarctic ozone hole. 

Professor Shanklin also is the Director of the British Astronomical Association's Comet Section and the President of the Cambridge Natural History Society

Arctic Ozone Hole in The Near Future?

May 25,2000-Upper atmospheric conditions in The Northern Hemisphere are becoming similar to those of the Antarctic. The result of this could be the formation of an "Arctic Ozone Hole" or "low ozone event". The alarming difference is that there are  millions of people that live in the area that will be exposed to this deadly radiation. These conditions could expose large numbers of people and animals to more ultraviolet radiation, which can cause skin cancer and disrupt reproduction of some animals and destroy plant life.

Arctic Ozone Hole

December 2,1999

An Arctic " low ozone event" could easily be blown south by high-altitude winds, and appear over populated areas of The United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. It  could trigger public alerts against going out in the sun without protective clothing across The Northern Hemisphere. Experts predict that an estimated 10 % reduction in the ozone layer will result in a 25 % increase in non-melanoma skin cancer rates for temperate latitudes by the year 2050.

 NASA Press Release 5/25/2000

The ozone layer that protects life on Earth may not be recovering from the damage it has suffered over the Arctic region as quickly as scientists previously thought, according to a paper published in the May 26 issue of the journal Science.  Specifics of the research also will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, DC, on May 31.  

     More polar stratospheric clouds than anticipated are forming high above the North Pole, causing additional ozone loss in the sky over the Arctic, according to Dr. Azadeh Tabazadeh, lead author of the paper and a scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.  The stratosphere comprises Earth's atmosphere from about 9 to 25 miles (about 15 to 40 kilometers) altitude and includes the ozone layer.

Arctic polar stratospheric clouds

     "Polar stratospheric clouds provide a 'double-whammy' to stratospheric ozone.  They provide the surfaces which convert benign forms of chlorine into reactive, ozone-destroying forms, and they remove nitrogen compounds that act to moderate the destructive impact of chlorine," said Dr. Phil DeCola, Atmospheric Chemistry Program Manager at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.
    "The Arctic has become colder and more humid, conditions that promote formation of more polar stratospheric clouds that take part in polar ozone destruction.  The main conclusion of our study is that if this trend continues, Arctic clouds will remain longer in the 
stratosphere in the future," Tabazadeh said.
     "An ozone hole forms every spring over the Antarctic in the Southern Hemisphere which is colder than the Arctic," said Tabazadeh.  "The Arctic has been getting colder and is becoming more like the Antarctic; this could lead to more dramatic ozone loss in the future over the Northern Hemisphere, where many people live."

NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite

     Researchers used data from NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite to analyze cloud data from both the north and south polar regions for the study.  "What we found from the satellite was that polar stratospheric clouds currently last twice as long in the Antarctic as compared to the Arctic," Tabazadeh said.  "However, our calculations show that by 2010 the Arctic may become more 'Antarctic-like' if Arctic temperatures drop further by about 5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit (about 3 to 4 degrees Celsius)," she said. 

Arctic  Ozone Hole

Environment Canada Nov 30 1999 ozone image

     When Arctic polar stratospheric clouds last longer, they can precipitate, removing nitrogen from the upper atmosphere, which increases the opportunity for chlorine compounds to destroy ozone more efficiently.  The polar stratospheric clouds involved in the reactions contain nitric acid and water, according to researchers who discovered these clouds in 1986. 


     "Data from the Microwave Limb Sounder on UARS have provided the first opportunity to observe nitric acid throughout the Arctic and the Antarctic over a period of many years," said Michelle Santee, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, who is a co-author of the Science paper.  "The continued presence of nitric acid in the Arctic winter  -- which is not the case in the Antarctic -- helps to moderate ozone loss by reducing the amount of reactive chlorine, but this could change in the future," she added.

More than a decade ago, scientists determined that human-made chlorine and bromine compounds cause most ozone depletion. Manufacturers made the chlorine compounds,chloroflourocarbons or "CFCs," for use as refrigerants, aerosol sprays, solvents and foam-blowing agents.  Fire fighters used bromine-containing halogens to put out fires. Manufacture of CFCs ceased in 1996 in signatory countries under the terms of the Montreal Protocol and its amendments.

The Montreal Protocol bans CFC emissions. As a result, the chlorine concentration in the upper atmosphere is already starting to decline, according to Tabazadeh.  "Scientists used to believe that as chlorine levels decline in the upper atmosphere, the ozone layer should slowly start to recover.  However, greenhouse gas emissions, which provide warming at the Earth's surface, lead to cooling in the upper atmosphere.  This cooling promotes formation of the kind of polar stratospheric clouds that contribute to ozone loss," she added.  "Several recent studies, including this one, show that ozone recovery is more complex and will take longer than originally thought," she explained. 

Arctic Ozone 2011

Recent observations from satellites and ground stations suggest that atmospheric ozone levels for March 2011 in the Arctic were approaching the lowest levels in the modern instrumental era. What those readings mean for the remainder of the year is unclear. But what they mean for the long-term is that the recovery from human-induced ozone depletion is an uneven climb.

These maps of ozone concentrations over the Arctic come from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA's Aura satellite. The left image shows January 1 to March 23, 2010, and the right shows the same dates in 2011. March 2010 had relatively high ozone, while March 2011 has low levels.

  • Polar ozone loss depends on temperature and inorganic halogen concentrations in lower stratosphere

  • Assessments in 1990s recognized that could have severe Arctic ozone depletion in very cold Arctic winters

  • Low temperatures into spring are key ingredient for large ozone loss

  • Stratospheric minimum temperatures in 2010/2011 were unusually low/long lasting

High levels of Activated Chlorine observed in Arctic in March 2011

Arctic Ozone Hole 2011

As a result of the high Cl levels, there were large ozone losses

Credit:Professor Jonathan Pyle from University Cambridge

It was exceptionally cold in the ozone layer in the past month. During the first half of March there were several days with record-low temperatures in the stratosphere at altitudes of about 20 km, and the cold period continued for the entire month. This led to sustained low ozone values over the polar region.

The area with low ozone over the North Pole was observed by several satellite sensors, e.g. SCIAMACHY on the EnviSat satellite, and the Ozone Monitoring Instrument OMI on EOS-Aura. This is demonstrated by the figure, which shows the monthly-mean ozone amount for March 2011 compared to the months March in the period 1979-2010. The situation this year resembles the years 1996, 1997 and 1990, where similar low ozone levels over the North Pole were observed.

The continuing cold spell in the stratosphere, where the ozone layer is located, was remarkable. In contrast, the previous years 2009 and 2010 showed an early so-called stratospheric warming in January and mid-February. Temperatures in the stratosphere in the first half of March this year were low enough for polar stratospheric clouds to form. In these clouds chlorine compounds are formed from CFCs which break down ozone over the North Pole when sunlight is present. In addition to the cold temperatures, the transport of ozone-rich air from the tropics was reduced this year because of the strong winds around the North Pole at 20km altitude.

The ozone layer over the North Pole nevertheless has a thickness of more than 250 Dobson units (a unit expressing the number of molecules ozone per square meter). This is much more than what is observed for the ozone hole over the South Pole in September-November. 250-300 DU is comparable to the thickness of the ozone layer in the tropics. The relatively large ozone breakdown leads to reduced ozone levels over the Northern Hemisphere this Spring because it will take some time before the lost ozone has been replenished.

The figure above shows the March monthly-mean total ozone values for the period 1979-2011 as it is monitored by MACC partner KNMI. The period 1979-2008 is derived from the multi-sensor reanalysis (MSR) of the ozone layer. The analysis for 2009-2011 is based on an assimilation of SCIAMACHY ozone columns.