NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists report this year's ozone hole in the polar region of the Southern Hemisphere has broken records for area and depth.
The ozone layer acts to protect life on Earth by blocking harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. The "ozone hole" is a severe depletion of the ozone layer high above Antarctica. It is primarily caused by human-produced compounds that release chlorine and bromine gases in the stratosphere.
Now for the good news:
As a result of the Montreal Protocol and its amendments, the concentrations of ozone-depleting substances in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) peaked around 1995 and are decreasing in both the troposphere and stratosphere. It is estimated these gases reached peak levels in the Antarctica stratosphere in 2001. However, these ozone-depleting substances typically have very long lifetimes in the atmosphere (more than 40 years).
As a result of this slow decline, the ozone hole is estimated to annually very slowly decrease in area by about 0.1 to 0.2 percent for the next five to 10 years. This slow decrease is masked by large year-to-year variations caused by Antarctic stratosphere weather fluctuations.
The recently completed 2006 World Meteorological Organization/United Nations Environment Programme Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion concluded the ozone hole recovery would be masked by annual variability for the near future and the ozone hole would fully recover in approximately 2065.
Only 60 years to go before we are back where we started.