It is true that while we humans are locked, nature is stretching its legs. By just staying at home we can see the drastic changes in the environment. The most important news in recent times has been the reports by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) that have confirmed that the largest hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic region has been closed. Does one wonder if this could be attributed to the lower pollution levels during the world wide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic?
The correct answer to this would be: Yes, the arctic hole has now been closed. But no, it had no direct or indirect link with the global lockdown or COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the Ozone Layer and why do we care about it? The ozone layer happens to be a protective layer of gas in the stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. It shields the planet from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, which can cause skin cancer and cataracts, apart from harming the environment. Damage to this shield (ozone layer depletion/ ozone hole) is caused by excessive release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons gases, formerly found in aerosol spray cans and refrigerants that releases into the atmosphere causing chemical reactions that break down ozone molecules, reducing ozone’s ultraviolet radiation-absorbing capacity. Since the 1970s scientists are warning that CFCs can be a threat to the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol was agreed on in the 1980s– an international commitment to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals that were universally ratified by all countries that participate in the UN.
Signs of recovery are seen for the first time in 33 years, as reported by NASA on March 12, 2020, an analysis of satellite observations shows that ozone levels reached their lowest point. “This year’s low Arctic ozone happens about once per decade,” said Paul Newman, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Although, there are numerous claims on various social media platforms that the reason behind the plugin of the ozone layer is the lockdown, yet this is far from the truth. However, what the pandemic can be credited with is the lower carbon footprint, better Air Quality Index, starry nights, surprising sightings, etc.
Confirmed by a tweet on April 23, 2020, by Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). According to scientists, first identified in march the largest hole in the Ozone layer above the Arctic had closed. It has been achieved by the efforts of the unusually strong and long-lived polar vortex, the high-altitude currents that bring cold air to the polar regions. CAMS further explained the reason behind the ozone layer healing: The polar vortex in 2020 has been extremely powerful and temperatures inside it have been very low. However, scientists do caution against attributing this phenomenon to climate change, as it’s still in a very early stage.
CAMS has stated that it will continue to monitor the evolution of the Arctic ozone hole over the coming months with satellite and ground-based (in situ) observations through a process called data assimilation. Currently, CAMS uses ozone satellite observations from the SBUV-2, OMI, MLS, GOME-2, and Sentinel-5P/TROPOMI instruments.
–By Team Green Watch