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Envisat witnesses return of the South Polar ozone hole

"Ever since this phenomenon was first discovered in the mid-1980s, satellites have served as an important means of monitoring it," explained Jos Achache, ESA Director of Earth Observation Programmes. "ESA satellites have been routinely observing stratospheric ozone concentrations for the last decade.

"And because Envisat's observations are assimilated into atmospheric models, they actually serve as the basis of an operational ozone forecasting service. These models predict the ozone hole is in the process of opening this week."

Envisat data show 2004's ozone hole is appearing about two weeks later than last year's, but at a similar time period to the average during the last decade. The precise time and range of Antarctic ozone hole occurrences are determined by regional meteorological variations.

The ozone hole typically persists until November or December, when increasing regional temperatures cause the winds surrounding the South Pole to weaken, and ozone-poor air inside the vortex is mixed with ozone-rich air outside it.

The ozone hole of 2002 was an exception to this general pattern, when a late September slowdown of the polar vortex caused the ozone hole to split in two and dissipate early. Envisat's predecessor mission, ERS-2, monitored the process.

"Envisat carries an instrument called the Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Cartography (SCIAMACHY), based on a previous instrument flown aboard ERS-2, called the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME)," said Henk Eskes of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). "The two instruments give us a combined data set that stretches over ten years, one that Envisat adds to every day with fresh observations.

"This data set presents a very good means of eventually identifying long-term trends in ozone. Whether or not the ozone layer is starting to recover is a hotly debated topic at the moment."

The stratospheric ozon
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Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
mariangela.d'acunto@esa.int
39-069-418-0856
European Space Agency
1-Sep-2004


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