The largest ever recorded hole in the ozone layer over the North Pole has closed. It was the biggest ever ozone hole recorded over the Arctic, said to be the largest gap scientists had seen for almost a decade. The hole formed earlier in the year and was only discovered by scientists in March - and has healed itself as quickly as it formed. Experts at Copernicus' Atmosphere Monitoring Services (CAMS) had been tracking the hole, noting that the "unprecendented" tear was caused by a particularly strong Arctic polar vortex, rather than human activity. "The unprecedented 2020 northern hemisphere #Ozonehole has come to an end," the group wrote on Twitter. "The Polar Vortex split, allowing ozone rich-air into the Arctic. This Arctic ozone hole actually has nothing to do with coronavirus-related lockdowns, but rather was caused by an unusually strong and long-lived polar vortex." Still, amazing news for the environment and climate change!
What is the polar vortex?
The polar vortex is a group of large anti-clockwise circular winds found around the north pole that keeps cold air locked around the Arctic region. It is typically weaker in the summer and stronger in the winter. When temperatures drop low enough, clouds can form which can trigger ozone-destroying chemicals like chlorine and carbon. The hole was recorded as being 11 miles above the Earth's surface - the ozone typically sits between 9-22 miles above the surface of the Earth.
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The ozone layer is a natural, protective layer of gas that shield’s us from the Sun's harmful UV rays. The hole is small compared to the one above the Antarctic, which was discovered almost 40 years ago – and the one we usually refer to as the hole in the ozone layer. Scientists are said to have recorded this hole at its smallest last year, and are optimistic that it may start to close further.
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