Scientists at NASA said Monday that the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer has shrunk to the smallest size on record since it was first detected in the 1980s.
A press release from the agency reported that the hole, which naturally grows and shrinks every year due to temperatures in the Arctic, had shrunk to its yearly low in late September and October, surpassing record lows registered in past years.
The hole now sits at 3.9 million square miles, according to NASA, the lowest level on record since the hole was first detected in 1982. Scientists at NASA’s headquarters in Greenbelt, Md., said that the change in temperatures leading to warmer air in the Arctic, which contributes to ozone gap shrinkage, was related to normal yearly phenomenon and not climate change.
“It’s great news for ozone in the Southern Hemisphere,” said Paul Newman, chief scientist for earth sciences at the facility. “But it’s important to recognize that what we’re seeing this year is due to warmer stratospheric temperatures. It’s not a sign that atmospheric ozone is suddenly on a fast track to recovery.”
“This year, ozonesonde measurements at the South Pole did not show any portions of the atmosphere where ozone was completely depleted,” added Bryan Johnson, an atmospheric scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Boulder, Colo., laboratory.
Scientists are hoping that the dangerous hole in the Earth’s ozone layer, which contributes to increased negative effects from ultraviolet rays across the world, will dissipate following the decision to ban ozone-harming chemicals, some of which remain in the atmosphere, during the 1970s.
–This report was updated on Oct. 22 at 7:39 a.m.