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Envisat witnesses return of the South Polar ozone hole

e layer protects life on Earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The ozone thinning represented here is ultimately caused by the presence of man-made pollutants in the atmosphere such as chlorine, originating from man-made pollutants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Now banned under the Montreal Protocol, CFCs were once widely used in aerosol cans and refrigerators. CFCs themselves are inert, but ultraviolet radiation high in the atmosphere breaks them down into their constituent parts, which can be highly reactive with ozone.

Just because they were banned does not mean these long-lived chemicals have vanished from the air, so scientists expect the annual South Polar ozone hole to continue to appear for many years to come.

During the southern hemisphere winter, the atmospheric mass above the Antarctic continent is kept cut off from exchanges with mid-latitude air by prevailing winds known as the polar vortex. This leads to very low temperatures, and in the cold and continuous darkness of this season, polar stratospheric clouds are formed that contain chlorine.

As the polar spring arrives, the combination of returning sunlight and the presence of polar stratospheric clouds leads to splitting of chlorine into highly ozone-reactive radicals that break ozone down into individual oxygen molecules. A single molecule of chlorine has the potential to break down thousands of molecules of ozone.

ESA's ten-instrument Envisat spacecraft carries three instruments to measure the atmosphere; the results here come from SCIAMACHY, which provides global coverage of the distribution of ozone and other trace gases, as well as aerosols and clouds.

KNMI processes SCIAMACHY data in near-real time as the basis of an operational ozone forecasting service. This is part of a suite of atmospheric information services provided by a project called TEMIS (Tropospheric Emission Monitoring Internet Service) that also includes UV rad
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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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