This beautiful swirling video tracks the movement of the ozone layer as it passes over the Southern Pole during an entire year. The data, collected by Europe’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, shows how the hole in the ozone layer grows and shrinks over the year as the gas billows around the southern hemisphere.
The ozone layer, which sits around 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) above the Earth’s surface, is critical for the existence of life on this planet, as it absorbs most of the UV radiation from the Sun hitting us. This is why when in 1985 it was realized that our production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) was depleting the ozone layer over Antarctica, the world agreed on a global ban of CFCs, which were frequently used in cooling systems like refrigerators.
Since then, the hole discovered whirling above Antarctica has started to close, but it is still there as is evident by the beautiful video below. It is particularly evident when the amount of ozone in the southern hemisphere is compared with the thickness of the layer in the northern. While there is some thinning over the north pole, it is by no means as dramatic as over the southern.
The colorful visualization uses data collected by EUMETSAT, a global operational satellite agency based in Europe that tracks the environment, weather, and climate around the world. It's thought that as the hole in the ozone layer, which is really more of a thinning, slowly heals itself, the damage will shrink to routinely under 20 million square kilometers (8 million square miles) by 2040.
The ozone layer is made up of a molecule known as ozone, which is formed when solar ultraviolet radiation – or just plain old sunlight – hits oxygen molecules floating free in the atmosphere. The UV radiation breaks apart one oxygen molecule to form two oxygen atoms, each of which then go on to react with other oxygen molecules to form ozone (O3). This process occurs in an equilibrium of production and decomposition, until we started interfering.
It seems, then, that humans can influence global systems to achieve a positive result, despite what many might argue otherwise.
[H/T: BBC News]