Satellite data shows this year’s ozone hole one of the biggest on record

The uncertainty of science: New data from Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite has determined that the ozone hole this year over the south pole was one of the biggest on record.

The hole, which is what scientists call an ‘ozone depleting area,’ reached a size of 26 million sq km on 16 September 2023. This is roughly three times the size of Brazil.

The size of the ozone hole fluctuates on a regular basis. From August to October, the ozone hole increases in size – reaching a maximum between mid-September and mid-October. When temperatures high up in the stratosphere start to rise in the southern hemisphere, the ozone depletion slows, the polar vortex weakens and finally breaks down, and by the end of December ozone levels return to normal.

Despite the claims of scientists that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were creating the hole, requiring their ban in refrigerators, air conditioning, and aerosol sprays in 1987, the arrival of the ozone hole each year is actually a normal seasonal occurance caused by the interaction of the Earth’s tilt and the impact of solar radiation on the upper atmosphere. More interaction, and oxygen molecules break-up into ozone. Less interaction, and there is less ozone.

Thus, despite the ban of these products now for almost forty years, the size of the ozone hole continues to fluctuate significantly from year to year, for reasons that are not yet understood entirely. Some scientists attribute this year’s large size to a volcanic eruption in 2022, but this is merely a theory, not yet proved.

It also must be noted that when the ban was imposed in 1987, we only had data of the ozone hole going back a decade or so. Environmentalists posited then that the hole hadn’t existed before CFCs, but they really hadn’t known that. It will likely take a century of research to really get a good idea of the hole’s normal behavior from year to year. We might find that there was no reason to ban CFCs, that the hole is a natural seasonal occurance like snow in winter and heat in summer.

Scientists baffled by unknown source of CFCs

The uncertainty of science: Scientists have found that, despite their complete ban since 2007, one type of ozone-depleting CFCs are still being pumped into the atmosphere from some unknown source.

Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), which was once used in applications such as dry cleaning and as a fire-extinguishing agent, was regulated in 1987 under the Montreal Protocol along with other chlorofluorocarbons that destroy ozone and contribute to the ozone hole over Antarctica. Parties to the Montreal Protocol reported zero new CCl4 emissions between 2007-2012.

However, the new research shows worldwide emissions of CCl4 average 39 kilotons (about 43,000 U.S. tons) per year, approximately 30 percent of peak emissions prior to the international treaty going into effect. “We are not supposed to be seeing this at all,” said Qing Liang, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the study published online in the Aug. 18 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. “It is now apparent there are either unidentified industrial leakages, large emissions from contaminated sites, or unknown CCl4 sources.”

That there seems to be an unknown source of CFCs suggests strongly that the entire theory of CFCs destroying the ozone layer is faulty. If CFCs were being produced naturally in the past then the ozone layer should not exist based on this theory. That it does exist says the CFCs are not harmful to it and were banned unnecessarily.

A new study suggests a link between CFCs, the ozone hole, and climate change.

The uncertainty of science: A new study suggests a link between CFCs, the ozone hole, and climate change.

“Most conventional theories expect that global temperatures will continue to increase as CO2 levels continue to rise, as they have done since 1850. What’s striking is that since 2002, global temperatures have actually declined – matching a decline in CFCs in the atmosphere,” Professor Lu said. “My calculations of CFC greenhouse effect show that there was global warming by about 0.6 °C from 1950 to 2002, but the earth has actually cooled since 2002. The cooling trend is set to continue for the next 50-70 years as the amount of CFCs in the atmosphere continues to decline.”

The data is interesting, though hardly as conclusive Lu claims. It does illustrate again how incredibly complex climate science is, and how many factors influence it that we can’t yet completely quantify.