Environment and Ecology

The Earth’s Environment

What are some differences between the Antarctic and Arctic ozone holes?

The Antarctic and Arctic ozone holes are slightly different (and these conditions can change depending on the conditions during a specific year). The first ozone “hole” over the Antarctic was discovered in 1985; in 2002, the hole split into two distinct holes, but by 2012, the hole had decreased to the second smallest in twenty years. Most scientists believe this is because of the warmer temperatures (the global average temperatures have gone up) in the Antarctic’s lower stratosphere, the layer above the troposphere where humans live.

The Arctic ozone hole tends to be milder and shorter-lived than the one over the Antarctic, but the ozone levels are still often significantly higher than at the South Pole. The Arctic hole is found in a region of the so-called polar vortex—a place in which fast-blowing circular winds intensify in the fall, isolate an air mass within the vortex of the winds, and keep the area very cold. In most years, atmospheric waves push the vortex to lower latitudes in the late winter and break it up, unlike the Antarctic hole, which is much more stable and lasting until midspring. And “good news” may be in the far future for the ozone layer above the Arctic: according to a study in 2013, some scientists believe the ozone layer over the North Pole should recover to its original nonhole state by around 2100.


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