The Antarctic Ozone Hole Was Pretty Small This Year, but Don't Celebrate Yet

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When the term "ozone hole" comes up it's usually followed by talk about how it's huge and gaping and the sun is going to burn the earth like a fried egg in two years unless we all switch to electric cars and squiggly lightbulbs. Not this year. In 2012, the hole in the ozone layer was really small.  

NASA and NOAA both released images of the Antarctic ozone layer today, and the average area of the hole was 6.9 million square miles, the second smallest it's been in twenty years. The hole was at it's biggest point on September 22 when it was 8.5 million miles wide. That's a far cry from 12 years ago when the whole hit its widest mark ever of 11.5 million miles. The reason the hole was so small this year was an increase in warm air circulating in the Antarctic atmosphere. "It happened to be a bit warmer this year high in the atmosphere above Antarctica, and that meant we didn’t see quite as much ozone depletion as we saw last year, when it was colder," explained NOAA's Jim Butler. "Natural fluctuations in weather patterns resulted in warmer stratospheric temperatures this year. These temperatures led to a smaller ozone hole," said NASA atmospheric scientist Paul Newman. 

While this all sounds encouraging, like things are turning around and we might not be destroying the planet after all, a recent study found there's likely methane gas trapped in the quickly melting Antarctic ice. If released, the methane gas would increase global warming's harsher effects. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.