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Over the Antarctic, the Smallest Ozone Hole In a Decade 174

Posted by timothy
from the less-deodorant-for-everyone dept.
hypnosec writes "The ozone layer seems to be on a road to recovery over Antarctica; according to Europe's MetOp weather satellite, which is monitoring atmospheric ozone, the hole over the South Pole in 2012 was the smallest it's been in the last 10 years. The decrease in size of the hole is probably the result of reduction in the concentration of CFCs, especially since the mid-1990s, because of international agreements like the Montreal Protocol."
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Over the Antarctic, the Smallest Ozone Hole In a Decade

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  • HypnoToad says (Score:1, Insightful)

    by DFurno2003 (739807)
    Correlation is not causation.
    • Re:HypnoToad says (Score:5, Informative)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @02:40PM (#42851927)
      Except that these processes are simple enough that we can measure the high altitude concentrations of these compounds and show that their influence on the O3 concentration closely matches our understanding of the processes involved.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Pino Grigio (2232472)
        I did read a paper not so long ago about the Ozone layer being regulated to a large degree by cosmic rays, over the Antarctic [uwaterloo.ca].

        And by the way, moderating dissenting voices "troll" is totally beyond the pale. Science is about skepticism. Physicists are highly skeptical of each other's results. When it comes to Earth Sciences, why is it that people crowd the paradigm like it's a sacred tome? Debates here would be far more interesting if they were actually allowed.
        • Re:HypnoToad says (Score:5, Informative)

          by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @10:27PM (#42855351)

          Good job misrepresenting that. Here, let me post the abstract, literally the first thing you'd read:

          This Letter reports reliable satellite data in the period of 1980–2007 covering two full 11-yr cosmic ray (CR) cycles, clearly showing the correlation between CRs and ozone depletion, especially the polar ozone loss (hole) over Antarctica. The results provide strong evidence of the physical mechanism that the CR-driven electron-induced reaction of halogenated molecules plays the dominant role in causing the ozone hole. Moreover, this mechanism predicts one of the severest ozone losses in 2008–2009 and probably another large hole around 2019–2020, according to the 11-yr CR cycle.

          The paper does not say it's dependent on cosmic rays exclusively, instead it points out that cosmic ray activity seems to play a significant role in determining the activity of halogenated molecules destroying ozone. Guess which one of those parameters we've totally screwed around with from the 1970s onwards?

          I'll give you a hint: it's not cosmic ray irradiation.

          • Re:HypnoToad says (Score:4, Insightful)

            by khallow (566160) on Monday February 11, 2013 @12:47AM (#42855983)

            This Letter reports reliable satellite data in the period of 1980â"2007 covering two full 11-yr cosmic ray (CR) cycles

            This should be a warning sign for you. Small data sets(and here, over short time scales) can indicate correct results, but they can also be highly misleading.

            • Re:HypnoToad says (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Pino Grigio (2232472) on Monday February 11, 2013 @04:11AM (#42856717)
              Well, that applies to the hypothesis that man-made CFCs cause it too. We don't have a record of the ozone hole over the Antarctic going back very far either, do we? For all we know, it's a natural cyclic event.
            • by sjames (1099)

              Very true, but only time can give us more data. Sure, we'd all like to see 10 more cycles, but that will necessarily take 110 years to collect. For now, we'll just have to deal with 2 cycles and limit claims with phrases like 'suggestive of' and 'points to'. In 2019 we can look at the analysis of another cycle and feel slightly more (or less?)confident in the results.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Pino Grigio (2232472)
            Interesting point, but therein lies the rub: The paper predicts another large hole around 2019. If that does happen, will you concede that it falsifies the hypothesis that the hole is caused by man-mad CFCs? This is how science works, after all, is it not? I will put my £10 onto the table if you will.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by at0mjack (953726)

              *sigh*. If you're going to quote the scientific literature in support of your argument, you need to at least make some effort to understand it first.

              The paper says that cosmic rays strongly correlate with ozone depletion. The data point to cosmic-ray driven reactions of halogenated molecules as being the cause of the correlation. The *only* halogenated molecules present in the stratosphere in any significant concentration are CFCs. I'll repeat that: where the paper talks about "halogenated molecules", it

              • by Troed (102527)

                *sigh*. If you're going to quote the scientific literature in support of your argument, you need to at least make some effort to understand it first.

                The paper says that cosmic rays strongly correlate with ozone depletion. The data point to cosmic-ray driven reactions of halogenated molecules as being the cause of the correlation. The *only* halogenated molecules present in the stratosphere in any significant concentration are CFCs. I'll repeat that: where the paper talks about "halogenated molecules", it's talking about CFCs, HCFCs and other man-made chemicals.

                "Coastal waters of the tropical Western Pacific produce natural halogenated organic molecules involving chlorine, bromine and iodine atoms that may damage the stratospheric ozone layer. "

                "Micro-organisms such as macro-algae and phytoplankton form natural halogenated organic molecules, which are released into the air, where they eventually find their way into the stratosphere."

                http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120201093105.htm [sciencedaily.com]

                • *sigh*. If you're going to quote the scientific literature in support of your argument, you need to at least make some effort to understand it first.

                  The paper says that cosmic rays strongly correlate with ozone depletion. The data point to cosmic-ray driven reactions of halogenated molecules as being the cause of the correlation. The *only* halogenated molecules present in the stratosphere in any significant concentration are CFCs. I'll repeat that: where the paper talks about "halogenated molecules", it's talking about CFCs, HCFCs and other man-made chemicals.

                  "Coastal waters of the tropical Western Pacific produce natural halogenated organic molecules involving chlorine, bromine and iodine atoms that may damage the stratospheric ozone layer. "

                  "Micro-organisms such as macro-algae and phytoplankton form natural halogenated organic molecules, which are released into the air, where they eventually find their way into the stratosphere."

                  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120201093105.htm [sciencedaily.com]

                  And yet - as was pointed out in the paper - the concentration of CFCs in the atmosphere is carefully monitored these days, and has been static since about 1992 which correlates with treaties and provisions phasing out CFC use in industry. The quantities man put up are staggering compared to any natural production.

                  • by Troed (102527)

                    The quantities man put up are staggering compared to any natural production.

                    Could you please source that statement? Since we've only recently discovered some of the natural sources it does surprise me that we would know anything about the ratio.

                    • The quantities man put up are staggering compared to any natural production.

                      Could you please source that statement? Since we've only recently discovered some of the natural sources it does surprise me that we would know anything about the ratio.

                      Given how CFCs work, if significant natural sources existed then we would have observed a significant ozone hole well before human production of CFCs started up. They're long-life molecules which do not fall out of the atmosphere easily, but we know there was no pre-existing ozone hole before the invention of CFCs and their use in industry.

                      This is a decent report on the matter: http://downloads.climatescience.gov/sap/sap2-4/sap2-4-final-ch2.pdf [climatescience.gov]

                    • by Troed (102527)

                      but we know there was no pre-existing ozone hole before the invention of CFCs and their use in industry

                      We most certainly do not. The ozon "hole" was discovered first time we looked (after a hypothesis was formed as to how CFCs could impact stratospheric ozone) and we have no data whatsoever as to how the concentration of ozone has fluctuated over history. Thus, we have no baseline to compare natural vs human sourced influence with.

                      (The report you link to does not contain any data on the subject)

                      CFCs have been produced and used since the 1930's. The first reliable ozone hole measurements were done in the earl

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Indeed.

      The decrease in size of the hole is probably the result of reduction in the concentration of CFCs, especially since the mid-1990s, because of international agreements like the Montreal Protocol.

      It was urgent that CFCs be phased out not because of atmospheric damage but because DuPont's patents on them were about to expire. Anyone who works with refrigerants knows how "fucked" the replacements are compared to their predecessors.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by russotto (537200)

        It was urgent that CFCs be phased out not because of atmospheric damage but because DuPont's patents on them were about to expire.

        That's bullshit. R-12 and R-22 were long out of patent by the time the phaseout started.

        Anyone who works with refrigerants knows how "fucked" the replacements are compared to their predecessors.

        That, unfortunately, is true.

      • by sjames (1099)

        The really screwy part is that the new 'blessed' refrigerants are themselves pretty harmful. We'd be much better off going with propane, but that would be cheap and non-patentable, so of course that would be a travesty of epic proportions.

  • by noobermin (1950642) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @02:40PM (#42851925) Journal

    Perhaps this means that conservation efforts over the last decade have had effect? I don't know, I'm honestly speaking from a point of view that is ignorant of climate science. In any case, this is great news.

    • No, this will re-kindle the fire that both sides of the coin have been at for the last 30 years or so. Watch as more "research" is done to prove/disprove that conservation is having an impact on the earth in general. The oil companies will take credit that their efforts are showing effect so we shouldn't stop using gas while actual climatologists fight tooth and nail to get the years' research grant money.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2013 @03:07PM (#42852161)
      No. The hole in the ozone is caused by chlorine in the stratosphere, which gets there in chloroflorocarbons, catalyzing the O3 generated by the radiation in the upper atmosphere. It has nothing to do with climate change or greenhouse gasses.
      • Thanks for the clarification.

      • Well, except for the fact that ozone is an important GHG -- one of the three most important ones, from the spectroscopic data -- albeit one that is most common in the stratosphere where it warms the tropopause from above, rather than in the troposphere...

        rgb

        • Well, except for the fact that ozone is an important GHG -- one of the three most important ones, from the spectroscopic data -- albeit one that is most common in the stratosphere where it warms the tropopause from above, rather than in the troposphere...

          rgb

          It's also in staggeringly low quantities there. The ozone-layer is about the reduction of UV-irradiation, and in the troposphere it has a very short half-life because it's no reactive (hence why depletion in the stratosphere is a problem).

      • GP was talking about "conservation efforts", which is a broader class than just 'climate change or greenhouse gasses'. In this case, the conservation efforts included regulating/banning the use of CFCs which are a major contributor to the hole in the ozone layer. And yes, those efforts were successful.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps it's entirely a natural occurence and that all the efforts were for nothing at all...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, perhaps there is no physics and it's all unpredictable magic.

    • There's also a correlation between cosmic rays and the ozone hole. Just saying.
      • by Ironix (165274)

        There's also a correlation between cosmic rays and the ozone hole. Just saying.

        There is also a correlation between Russia's population decline and the ozone hole. Just saying.

        • We're in the solar maximum...(do NOT link me the cme/flare study it's irrelevent) so the luminescence and irradiation are increased. So more solar wind AND a smaller hole. Your argument is not as it was intended.
    • by necro81 (917438)
      Great news, everyone! [youtube.com]
      First thing that came into my mind.
  • Surely if it's been shrinking all this time then you could have the same story every day: "ozone hole smallest size since $date". Has it grown occasionally for some reason?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "The depletion in the Ozone layer is more prominent in the South Pole as compared to the Arctic Circle because of high wind speeds that results into a fast-rotating vortex of cold air which leads to lower temperatures."

      Guessing the hole in bigger in winter.

    • Re:Non-story? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dan East (318230) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @02:52PM (#42852047) Homepage Journal

      The ozone "hole" expands and contracts with atmospheric temperature. The colder it is, the thinner the ozone, and thus the larger the hole. So the size of the hole is both seasonal, and coupled to polar temperatures. I believe the hole is the smallest ever because the temperature has been warmer, not necessarily because less ozone is destroyed by man made chemicals.

    • Re:Non-story? (Score:5, Informative)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @03:12PM (#42852219) Journal

      Surely if it's been shrinking all this time then you could have the same story every day: "ozone hole smallest size since $date". Has it grown occasionally for some reason?

      For reasons that are sufficiently messy that I certainly couldn't do them justice(and there really isn't any point in copy/pasting a pretend understanding from wikipedia and just wasting space) ozone levels vary considerably over time, both because of natural seasonal weather patterns and because of changes in the presence of various ozone-depleting synthetic compounds.

      My understanding is that trends on atmospheric concentration of more or less all of the really nasty ozone-depleting compounds have been positive since regulation went into effect; but that the size and shape of the ozone hole has been a great deal more chaotic from season to season(shape counts, for our purposes, because ozone thinning over the antarctic is a bad sign; but the number of epidemiologists who care about penguin melanoma is limited, while ozone thinning over Australia is directly troublesome).

    • by Swampash (1131503)

      As a southerhemispherer I remember being able to go outside without sun protection. Because the sun protection was, you know, the upper atmosphere. No chance of that now.

  • In other words ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @03:20PM (#42852289) Homepage Journal

    ... scientists recognized an environmental problem and demonstrated a clear link to human activity, the scientists told the politicians about it, the politicians acted, and now the problem's going away.

    My God, this is terrible! We must ensure that no such thing ever happens again!

  • Clearly, the increased CO2 in the atmosphere is helping close the ozone hole! Suck it, Al Gore!

    (That's how it works, right?)

  • ...in 3.... 2.... 1...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Global warming is at BEST a hypothesis.

      Get back to me when its cast as a reproducible law.. and not by simply tweaking computer models to get the results you want... and make sure it goes all the way back to the planets formation... not just 100 years of questionable recorded data.

      That's how it works.. consensus is not part of it... no matter how many hack statistical only scientists clamoring for acceptance and a group hug say otherwise.

      • Global warming is at BEST a hypothesis.

        Get back to me when its cast as a reproducible law.. and not by simply tweaking computer models to get the results you want... and make sure it goes all the way back to the planets formation... not just 100 years of questionable recorded data.

        That's how it works.. consensus is not part of it... no matter how many hack statistical only scientists clamoring for acceptance and a group hug say otherwise.

        I honestly can't tell if this is satire, or just slashdot being slashdot.

  • Smallest in 10 years, you say?

    Here's a story blaming the ozone hole for TOO MUCH ice

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/8267243/Too-much-ice-for-Antarctic-penguins [stuff.co.nz]

  • After all, what does the data say? Higher temperatures, less Antarctic ozone? Looks like a correlation, and therefore....

  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RevDisk (740008) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:43PM (#42853077) Journal
    I hate to even point this out, because idiots will claim I am a global warming denier, climate change denier or kicker of cute puppies...

    But I really wish that the climate change folks would take a note from the whole ozone thing. CFCs and other contributory substances (ozone-depleting substances (ODS)) were proven to have an impact. CFCs were replaced with hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and other alternative solvents with minimal costs. And the problem was economically solved for the most part.

    Folks proved what the problem was (ozone depletion), what was a very significant contributor (CFCs), how everything happened (in a scientific "can be repeated, with the same results every time"), set up accurate and provable models (Single Layer Isentropic Model of Chemistry And Transport (SLIMCAT), CLaMS (Chemical Lagrangian Model of the Stratosphere), etc), and how to economically mitigate the bad stuff by using less bad stuff. The last stage is arguably the most important. All of the climate change research and proof in the world is nice. But it doesn't mean jack if it doesn't produce economically acceptable alternatives.

    X is bad? Fine. Accurately prove how they are bad, in a way that is relatively easy to proof in a repeatable way. Gimme alternatives that are viable (ie can be realistically implemented in a reasonable manner), that are economic (preferably cheaper, but no more than 5-10% more expensive) that are effective (preferably better, but no more than 5-10% less effiicient).

    I spent time in former Soviet countries and third world countries. I'm aware of how bad pollution can be. It can be horribly nasty. I'm also not a moron, so I realize you have to be able to realistically solve the problem if you want to mitigate it. I'll bet myself $1 that I get called a climate denier, right wing puppy kicker or whatnot anyways.
    • by ankhank (756164) *

      > CFCs were replaced with hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) ...
      > the problem was economically solved for the most part.

      Excep that HCFC turns out to be more of a problem
      http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2007/September/25090702.asp [rsc.org]

      HCFC Phaseout Schedule | Ozone Layer Protection - Regulatory ...
      http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/phaseout/hcfc.html [epa.gov]
      To learn more about the HCFC phaseout, including frequently asked questions, please visit this link.

      Producing HCFC-22 also produces, as a byproduct, HCF-23.

      Oo

      • by thrich81 (1357561)

        "Excep that HCFC turns out to be more of a problem
        http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2007/September/25090702.asp [rsc.org] [rsc.org]"
        So where in the article you linked does it say that HCFCs are more of a problem than CFCs? All I could find was the following, "They replaced the older and even more ozone-damaging chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the 1990s, but were never meant to be permanent substitutes." No matter what happens with the HCFCs, it seems we are better off without the CFCs. Going to HCFCs seems to h

    • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by radtea (464814) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:28PM (#42854341)

      X is bad? Fine. Accurately prove how they are bad, in a way that is relatively easy to proof in a repeatable way. Gimme alternatives that are viable (ie can be realistically implemented in a reasonable manner), that are economic (preferably cheaper, but no more than 5-10% more expensive) that are effective (preferably better, but no more than 5-10% less effiicient).

      While I'm in agreement with this view, I'm also aware of how much messier the AGW situation is than the CFC situation was. Anything beyond "anthropogenic gases are probably adding about 0.2% (1.6 W/m**2) to the Earth's heat budget at the surface" is extremely model dependent, and models are just not that good at predicting the detailed response of such a complex system.

      I am a computational physicist, and it is very clear after digging in to climate models a bit that climate models are not written by computational physicists, who typically have dealt with much simpler systems in much better controlled (and experimentally accessible) situations, which gives us a very healthy awareness of how inadequate our simulations are at capturing anything but the gross features of reality.

      If a computational model of a radiation detector comes within 10% of reality you're generally doing pretty well, and radiation detectors of various kinds are about as simple as you can get in terms of physics.

      So anyone who claims that climate models are adequate or even particularly useful as guides to policy response is likely not tightly coupled to reality. We don't really know what areas are likely to be affected by what kind of events. Even apparently simple things like an increase in hurricane force winds, or possibly an increase in the number of hurricanes, are hotly debated. No one, to the best of my knowledge, predicted ocean acidification as a likely outcome of increasing levels of atmospheric CO2, but this is likely going to be one of the more significant impacts. And so on.

      As such, it behooves us to pursue a number of policies that won't address any specific threat, but which will a) reduce human greenhouse gas emissions and b) increase our ability to respond the climate-driven humanitarian disasters. In the former category would be nuclear power development and other green power sources, and in the latter things like increased funds put aside for international relief via existing organizations.

      These positive actions have zero political support, however: people who are beating the drums regarding AGW policy are almost uniformly putting it in terms of controls and limits and restrictions on other people, which we know from far too much history never ends well, and certainly never solves the problem it was supposedly intended to address.

    • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Informative)

      by rastoboy29 (807168) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:47PM (#42854479) Homepage
      It has been proven beyond a *reasonable* doubt.

      The reason banning CFC's was so easy was because it was a relatively small target, and replacement technology was almost immediately available.

      The reason there is so much noise about climate is because it affects *everything* and there is no cut and dried solution available.  Entrenched interests have been pouring money into FUD on the scientists themselves for years for that reason.  And because they are suicidal, apparently...
    • it's a different situation with climate change. the solution to using the CFCs that were destroying ozone was just to use a different set of chemicals that were already in the can anyways. it was literally the easiest environmental crisis we've ever had to deal with.

      climate change is a whole different kettle of fish. if you had any idea how insanely cheap fossil fuels have been (and still are) you wouldn't be asking for economic alternatives.

    • by thrich81 (1357561)

      "CFCs were replaced with hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and other alternative solvents with minimal costs. And the problem was economically solved for the most part. " -- Not if you were to believe the wailing and crying at the time the CFC phaseouts were being discussed. It was going to be the end of the civilized world because there were "no substitutes for CFCs". We'd all lose our air conditioners and refrigerators, leading to general collapse. Exactly the same arguments were made (probably by the

      • by RevDisk (740008)
        Actually, from what chemical engineers have told me, it's only "recently" (I have no idea the specifics) that alternatives have caught up to CFCs in efficiency. Which helped contribute to higher environmental impact. If CFC alternative is 20% less efficient, that's cumulatively a LOT more energy to achieve the same cooling. Which means more CO2 from burning coal or natural gas. So, while they may have overstated the matter, banning CFCs did have an initial negative climate impact. I'm not up on leaded gas
    • X is bad? Fine. Accurately prove how they are bad, in a way that is relatively easy to proof in a repeatable way. Gimme alternatives that are viable (ie can be realistically implemented in a reasonable manner), that are economic (preferably cheaper, but no more than 5-10% more expensive) that are effective (preferably better, but no more than 5-10% less effiicient).

      The second and third criteria seem a bit artificial. Why not just cost vs benefit? On economics, did you mean factoring in externalized costs? If one were to demonstrate that switching to nuclear from coal would save more money from having to deal with climate change than we'd save by sticking with coal, then the smart move to make would be to switch, unless you're a coal fired power plant owner or remarkably short-sighted. Efficiency makes even less sense to me if you're talking in terms of energy prod

    • by sjames (1099)

      And what happens if there doesn't happen to BE a cheap fix? Kill 'em all and let God sort it out?

      It's really nice when a cheap fix is readily available, but it isn't always the case. Sometimes you can't have a pony.

      In this case though, have a look at nuclear with appropriate reprocessing.

  • This is going to upset the alarmists.

  • by fygment (444210) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:39PM (#42854417)

    Reducing CFC's was a good thing regardless of ozone holes, etc. They are toxic and bad for the environment, period, ozone holes or no.
    Reducing the carbon footprint is also a good thing as it means using things efficiently vice producing so much waste, regardless of climate effects.
    Why do we need a 'spin' to somehow make it real?
    Inefficiency leads to waste leads to rapid depletion leads to the disappearance of valuable resources.

  • That climate change deniers will use this to argue there is no such thing as 'global warming'.

    When the lesson to take from this news is that we can reverse the negative impact of our actions on our environment with decisive action.

  • So now what BS excuse are commercial fishermen going to use to explain the collapse of the krill population. As usual, they are loathe to admit that it is overfishing, instead coming up with fanciful explanations such as the ozone hole to explain the collapse of the krill and the devastation of the Antarctic ecosystems....

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