The ozone hole could be one of the smallest seen in three decades — but officials want to make sure potential threats to the atmospheric layer aren’t forgotten.
While the protective atmospheric layer has recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 1990 and is expected to be completely healed by the 2060s, according to the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, organizations recognize World Ozone Day on Sept. 16 to remind people of potential threats the ozone may face as its repair is celebrated.
“As we rightly focus our energies on tackling climate change, we must be careful not to neglect the ozone layer and stay alert to the threat posed by the illegal use of ozone-depleting gases,” António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said in a statement Monday.
Ozone is a gas in the atmosphere made up of three oxygen atoms, that protects living things on the planet from ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, according to NASA. Some human-produced gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) lead to destruction of the layer, which can cause harmful rays to get through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Measures to fight against production of CFCs and other chemicals that destroy the layer, however, mean the ozone hole — which forms every year from September to December in the Southern Hemisphere — could be one of the in three decades in 2019, the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) data shows.
“The ozone hole has been stabilising over the last few days, but our forecasts show it will remain small this week and we expect that this year’s ozone hole will be one of the smallest holes that we’ve seen since the mid-eighties,” CAMS Senior Scientist Antje Inness said in a statement.
The @CopernicusEU #Atmosphere Monitoring Service is celebrating World #OzoneDay by staying on duty tracking 2019's oddball #OzoneHole.
This animation compares it to every year since 1979, showing the variation over time.
Full update?? https://t.co/x8j0ldxfkw pic.twitter.com/AXskVzOqJm
Two years after the ozone hole’s discovery was discovered in 1985, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was created to monitor the production of chemicals that destruct the protective layer. More than 196 countries and the European Union have since ratified the protocol, according to Copernicus.
With more than 99% of chemicals that deplete the ozone being phased out of products as part of the Montreal Protocol, the UN says the Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone will be completely healed by the 2030s. In the 2050s, the Southern Hemisphere will be healed and the Polar Regions will follow in the next decade.
“On this World Ozone Day, we can celebrate our success. But we must all push to keep hold of these gains, in particular by remaining vigilant and tackling any illegal sources of ozone-depleting substances as they arise,” the UN said in a statement.