We’re On Thin Ice 

By Isabella Brady

As of October 7, the precarious conditions of the Antarctic have degraded: imputed to the large ozone hole located above the southern continent. The damaging occurrence proves a result of high levels of pollution and the presence of chlorine and bromine which ascend into the stratosphere therein. Destroying hundreds of ozone molecules, chlorine and bromine operate in “catalytic” cycles consisting of two or more reactions. Deeming the ozone hole the thirteenth largest in recorded history, according to NASA, the hole encompassed an area of roughly 24.8 million square kilometers –a size comparable to the North American continent– before receding in mid October. 

Nevertheless, the gap, which reached the top twenty-five percent of the most prominent ozone holes in history, has many scientists concerned. The large opening resembles a similar development of last year, the hole previous, which prolonged its longevity into late December of 2020. Thus, a pattern has emerged in ozone hole lifespan; with intervals shortening, scientists worry for the health of the ozone layer in future weeks and months as effects are becoming increasingly apparent. 

As the colorless gas (ozone) deteriorates, respectively, as does its effectiveness. Scientists believe the depletion of ozone in the stratosphere is a result of industrial gases. A chemically active substance, the dramatic weakening wrought by pollution allows ultraviolet radiation to enter Earth’s atmosphere, a threatening condition with the ability to end life on Earth. However, distributed over time, the ozone layer has already created a Kansas-sized hole in Antarctica’s sea ice (previously, the healthiest glacier remaining), a sad revelation discovered in 2017. Therefore, the continuous melting within and on the perimeter of the priorly robust glacier proves a disconcerting challenge to the preservation of Antarctica and its wildlife. 

Paired with climate change, the atmospheric condition of a thin ozone layer is predicted to wreak havoc on global ecosystems, submerge coastal cities below sea level and eliminate many species –possibly humanity if the current trends are sustained in upcoming decades. With worrisome predictions in mind, scientists implore society to lessen their carbon emissions, and advocate for the safety and preservation of the Earth’s atmosphere, a truly irreplaceable component of the habitation of our unique planet.