New Hope: Researchers Confirm Hole in Ozone Layer is Closing, Will be Healed by 2050


According to researchers, the ozone layer is the area of the Earth’s stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It is therefore the Earth’s protector against the UV radiation of the sun.

The breakdown of ozone in the stratosphere results in reduced absorption of UV radiation of the sun. Consequently, unabsorbed and dangerous UV radiation is able to reach the Earth’s surface at a higher intensity. This makes the ozone layer critical to the earth, and its destruction means possible doom for humanity.

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Although there are some natural gases capable of depleting the ozone layer, over the years, researchers have warned that man-made organohalogen compounds, especially chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and bromofluorocarbons, are a threat to the survival of the ozone layer. It is said these compounds when released are capable of breaking down over 100,000 ozone molecules. This was a theory put forward by researchers.

However, in May 1985, researchers with the British Antarctic Survey shocked the world when they announced the discovery of a huge hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica in the South Pole. This meant then, a disaster loomed.

This prompted the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer on September 1987. The treaty sought to phase out the production of man-made substances, which are responsible for the ozone depletion.

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Since the signing of the treaty, researchers have monitored the situation, to establish whether the ozone layer is recovering or not.  News from the monitoring was not good; as the hole continues to widen. Researchers said the ozone hole grows each year, when the sun returns to the South Polar cap from August, reaching its peak in October. In the year 2000, it was reported that the hole had widened to about 15 million square miles. It has since remained fairly constant over the past 15 years.

However, the good news is that researchers have announced in a new study that the widening hole, which has been threatening the Earth, has begun to close, possibly healing the ozone layer in the process.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Leeds, United Kingdom and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States.

The findings of the study were published in the journal Science on June 30, 2016. The study shows that the average size of the ozone hole had shrunk by more than 1.7 million square miles, since 2000. Telegraph reported the area closed, is around 18 times the size of the United Kingdom.

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Researchers now predict that the hole above the South Pole will close permanently by 2050. The researchers attribute the healing of the ozone layer to the efforts made in the Montreal Protocol, which banned the use of CFCs in aerosols and fridges.

Lead researcher of the study, Professor Susan Solomon of MIT said the world initiative to protect the ozone layer from destruction, has yielded this result.

“We can now be confident that the things we’ve done have put the planet on a path to heal. 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,” Professor Susan said about the findings of the study.

Co-author of the study, Dr Anja Schmidt, an Academic Research Fellow in Volcanic Impacts, also lauded the treaty signed in Montreal to protect the ozone layer. “The Montreal Protocol is a true success story that provided a solution to a global environmental issue.”

A lecturer in Observational Atmospheric Science at the University of Leeds, Dr Ryan Neely added his voice to the study saying, “Observations and computer models agree; healing of the Antarctic ozone has begun.”

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