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Person prepares to release large balloon.
Photo Credit: Kelli-Ann Bliss/NOAA
South Pole staff release a high-altitude balloon, which carries ozone-measurement equipment more than 30 kilometers high in the atmosphere, in mid-September.

Shrinking back

Latest measurements by NOAA at South Pole show smaller ozone hole

The ozone hole that forms each year above the Antarctic was a little smaller in 2013 than in years past, according to a recent news report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) External U.S. government site.

NOAA and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) External Non-U.S. government site  at the University of Colorado-Boulder External Non-U.S. government site track trends in seasonal ozone from measurements made by a two-person NOAA crew at the U.S. Antarctic Program's South Pole Station, which hosts the Atmospheric Research Observatory External U.S. government site. Earth's ozone layer shields life on the planet’s surface from ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer and damage plants.

In addition, those measurements showed ozone levels in a critical region of the atmosphere did not drop as low as in years past.

The Antarctic ozone hole began making a yearly appearance in the early 1980s, caused by chlorine released from man-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Under the 1987 Montreal Protocol External U.S. government site and its later amendments, countries agreed to phase out most ozone-depleting. Chlorine levels at the poles reached a maximum at the beginning of this century and are now on the decline, according to NOAA global observations.

For more about the 2013 ozone hole, see the NOAA press release External U.S. government site.

The Atmospheric Research Observatory at the South Pole Station is a National Science Foundation External U.S. government site facility used in support of scientific research related to atmospheric phenomena. The majority of the facility is allocated to a long-term research program carried out by NOAA's Global Monitoring Division External U.S. government site, which involves measurement of ozone, as well as important trace gases, aerosols, and solar radiation. For more about ARO, see previous article — Fresh air: NOAA observatory takes in the atmosphere at the South Pole.