According to a new study in the journal Science, Antarctica’s ozone hole has finally begun to recover. The hole was discovered in 1985 and had plagued scientist since. The “hole” is the label given to a layer in the Antarctic stratosphere between 10 and 15 Kilometers in altitude where the ozone had been virtually depleted.
In 1987 the “Montreal Protocol” was signed in order to phase out ozone depleting substance in Antarctica, and the fruits of that agreement are finally being realized. Not only has the ozone depletion stopped, it has begun the process of growing back. MIT atmospheric scientist Susan Solomon describes the study’s findings:
“If you use the medical analogy, first the patient was getting worse and worse, and then the patient is stabilized, and now, the really encouraging thing, is that the patient is really starting to get better.”
The researchers in the study used satellite and balloon data to measure the ozone hole over a 15 year period, from 2000-2015. They found a statistically significant 1.5 million square mile decline in the hole that is directly related to human activity.
The research is a unusual bit of positive news related to climate change, and suggests that we may be able to make changes on a wider scale if we can follow the model of success brought by the Montreal Protocol. Solomon explains her optimism:
“Technology and innovation can do miraculous things. We still have air conditioners, we still have refrigerators, we still have hair spray, for crying out loud. We didn’t have to give up much, and yet we got to a state in which the atmosphere is much better off, and we’re better off.”
Solomon hopes to expound on the success in combatting Antarctica’s ozone hole, but recognizes that we still face a major uphill battle in terms of global scaling.
“On the scale of things this was a different type of problem. It was an industry measured in the billions, not the trillions.”