In 1987, the Montreal Protocol aimed for eliminating the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) due to the destruction the chemicals were causing to the environment and ozone layer. The substances which contained CFCs, however, were quite prolific at the time and included refrigerators, fire extinguishers and spray cans. Even decades later, damage to the ozone continues as CFCs can remain in the atmosphere for approximately fifty years prior to ever encountering the ozone layer.
When CFCs are exposed to ultraviolet radiation they subsequently cause the release of chlorine atoms which work to destroy ozone molecules. Such holes can lead to numerous health issues for humans and non-humans alike, including skin cancer and cataracts. Increased UV radiation from the lowered ozone also can lead to troubles with crop production.
Ozone loss, often in the form of actual ozone holes, have become common occurrences. In Antarctica, ozone holes occur each year. The same cannot be said for the Arctic, where the occurrence of ozone depletion varies. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) determined that the ozone loss in the Arctic in 2011 was the greatest ever recorded, the Arctic officially having an ozone hole for the first time.
Now according to recent United Nations reports, the ozone conditions in the Arctic fall into average levels this year after a record 2011. The ozone hole in the Antarctic has also been determined to be in better condition than 2011, however, not significantly improved. The Antarctic ozone hole reaches it largest size in late September but recent reports indicate the current size is 7.3 million square miles.
The WMO stated: “The temperature conditions and the extent of polar stratospheric clouds so far this year indicate that the degree of ozone loss will be smaller than in 2011 but probably somewhat larger than in 2010.” The current record ozone hole in the Antarctic was 2006 at 10.6 million square miles.
Experts have indicated that they expect the Antarctic ozone hole to be repaired anywhere between 2045 and 2060.