If Earth were a superhero, then the ozone layer would be one of her shields. You see, the ozone layer that exists in the Earth’s stratosphere absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation. Great, right? We’d say so! After all, harmful ultraviolet radiation can damage life forms on Earth, and when the ozone layer absorbs this radiation instead, it essentially protects us and other living things.
This protective shield, which is only ten to twenty miles above the Earth’s surface, has a high concentration of the gas called ozone, hence the name. Around thirty years ago, tests showed that the ozone layer was being depleted, mainly because of chemicals released into Earth’s atmosphere. The discovery started a push to reduce the emission of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a gas particularly harmful to the ozone layer.
Scientists have been tracking the ozone layer ever since and recently reported the largest ever hole in the ozone layer just above the arctic. The hole is three times the size of Greenland and was formed when trapped air got mixed with pollutants. If you think a single giant hole in the ozone layer is a bad thing, you’re right. The more the ozone layer gets depleted, the more dangerous it is for living things on Earth. Are holes in the ozone layer unusual? Well, not really. In fact, a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica has been around for decades … until recently, that is. You see, the hole has begun shrinking and is the smallest it’s been since it was discovered. Some speculate that lower emissions are the key (since everyone is staying home because of COVID-19), but the real reason has more to do with a polar vortex. Now that’s good news for planet Earth!