Advertisement

World proven wrong as 'shock' discovery made about ozone layer

'I expected, like many of us, that the ozone hole was healing'

Back in the 1980s, everything was getting bigger — hair, phones, greed, but most worrying of all, the hole in the ozone layer.

This hole was causing Antarctica to melt at an alarming rate, but then the world came together and fixed the problem by banning CFC spray cans, right? Well, not quite.

New research out of New Zealand has revealed the hole might not be recovering and worse still, it might be expanding. The findings have even shocked the study’s lead author Hannah Kessenich from the University of Otago who described it as “remarkably large”.

“When I began my work in 2021, I expected, like many of us, that the ozone hole was healing,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

A penguin running from the hole in the ozone layer.
The hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica could be worsening, according to new research. Source: Getty (File)/NASA Ozone Watch

Kessenich's team examined the ozone layer's separate layers using 3D satellite data, and found a trend contrary to other reports that looked at the ozone layer as a whole. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

What you need to know about the ozone hole

  • The 1987 Montreal Protocol was a global agreement to ban the production of CFCs

  • The core of the ozone hole has reduced by 26 per cent since 2004 during the spring months

  • Previously reported recovery of the hole during spring is now in question

  • The hole is around 26 million square kilometres in size

Why does the ozone hole matter?

From New York City to Maui, extreme weather is increasingly smashing cities around the world. To keep people, animals and property safe, scientists are working to predict how the future will look, and what they can do to mitigate the storms, floods and fires of the future.

Kessenich concedes that scientists “still have a lot of work to do” in understanding the complex mechanisms that are contributing to the hole’s condition. But the changes could be linked to changes in the atmospheric layer above the ozone layer.

“There’s more to learn. But likely we won’t see the hole get too much worse. And there is variation from year to year,” she said.

Two 1980s pictures. Left - people on a graffitied train. Right - a woman using hair spray.
A ban of CFCs in the 1980s has helped the planet, but the hole in the ozone layer has continued to grow. Source: Getty (File)

More on Antarctica

What's happening now to monitor the ozone hole?

The hole is directly impacting those of us living in Australia or New Zealand, causing extreme rainfall as well as unusual summer weather.

Sadly ongoing monitoring of the hole is now in jeopardy as the the Aura NASA satellite the scientists relied on for imaging is about to be decommissioned.

While there will still be data available from other satellites, they aren’t able to provide the same complex 3D pictures.

Love Australia's weird and wonderful environment? Get our new weekly newsletter showcasing the week’s best stories.

Banner reads 'What on Earth' with 'Subscribe to our new weekly newsletter' and a collage of images of australian natural wildlife.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter.