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Envisat observes resurgent ozone hole

The ozone hole is normally at its largest in September, but 2002 saw it at its smallest extent for more than a decade: 40% down on previous years. And a year ago yesterday ongoing satellite measurements of ozone - gathered by the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute (KNMI) from the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME) instrument on ESA's ERS-2 satellite - showed it splitting in two.

"Using GOME we have gathered global stratospheric ozone data over the last eight years," said Henk Eskes of KNMI. "And last year we were actually able to accurately predict the split a few days before it happened, as we were operating an ozone forecasting service."

This dramatic reverse came just two years after the ozone hole had reached a record size more than 30 million sq km in 2000.

There was speculation that last year's shrinking hole showed the ozone layer was recovering from damage caused by man-made chemicals including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) - in the past used in aerosol cans and refrigerators. But the bad news is that this year's ozone hole looks much more like the 2000 than the 2002 version.

The latest ozone measurements acquired yesterday by the Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding (MIPAS) instrument aboard Envisat - ESA's latest Earth Observation spacecraft show this year's ozone hole is in no danger of splitting this time, and, with an area of 26 million sq km, is almost as big as the 2000 ozone hole. The Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) generated this value-adding MIPAS data based on level 2 products provided by ESA.

MIPAS is a German-built instrument that works by measuring infrared emissions from the Earth's 'limb' the band of atmosphere between planetary surface and empty space, as observed from behind Envisat. Working through day and night, MIPAS can map the atmospheric concentrations of more than 20 trace gases, including ozone as well as the pollutants that attack it. This mak
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Contact: Claus Zehner
claus.zehner@esa.int
39-069-418-0544
European Space Agency
26-Sep-2003


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