The reappearance of the ozone hole over Antarctica has been a hot topic for scientist around the world. A few of these scientists are the atmospheric physicist Richard D. McPeters and several of his colleagues at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. The ozone hole showed up earlier than expected, and it was wider and thinner. It appeared in mid-August, about two weeks ahead of schedule, and on September 19 reached the record size of 10.5 million square miles, more than three and a half times the area of the forty-eight contiguous United States that is a frightening statistic man. The hole actually is a thinning of the ozone layer--was also at a near-record problem. Ozone, a bluish gas whose molecules are made up of three oxygen atoms, occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere, where it acts as a kind of cosmic sun-block, protecting life on earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. The sun's rays destroy some ozone, but there was no real loss because ozone regenerates itself from stray oxygen atoms and molecules. At least since 1985, however, that delicate balance has been upset. An Antarctic ozone hole now forms from September to November each year, caused by man-made pollutants that destroy ozone in the atmosphere. The hole has been getting progressively larger. The culprits are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), once used as coolants. The chlorine atoms from CFCs react with ozone and destroy it. Sunlight splits off chlorine from CFCs, and the chlorine-ozone reaction takes place most readily on the surface of ice crystals. Thus when the sun returns in the Antarctic spring ice crystals that had formed the winter before are in place to speed the reaction. Investigators are blaming the rec...
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...ice as persistent, Tabazadeh's team speculates. "I think the study she's done is really good," says Drew T. Shindell of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. Aircraft studies and ground-based measurements depict localized conditions, he says, "but things change from region to region, so it's nice to have these global data sets from satellites." "It's important to realize that the question is very closely connected to the bigger picture of carbon dioxide increases and [human-caused] climate change," adds Michael J. Newchurch of the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Earth's stratosphere cools as its surface warms. Still, Tabazadeh suspects that the Arctic will not continue its cooling trend or produce annual ozone holes rivaling Antarctica's. "I don't think it can keep cooling and cooling.... It should either slow down very much or even reverse."
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