The figure recorded by ESA in 2021 is 23 million square kilometers. The ozone hole at the South Pole is larger than Antarctica.
The ozone hole (or ozonosphere) is a phenomenon, intermittent, related to the depletion of stratospheric ozone in Earth's polar regions. It has the fundamental function of intercepting ultraviolet radiation, which, in non-minimal quantities, would be lethal for life on Earth.
They are in particular UV-B and UV-C, whose prolonged exposure can cause damage to the eyes, alterations of the immune system, skin tumors, melanomas, carcinomas, acceleration of skin aging.
There is no need to add more to understand why it is so serious that the ozone hole over Antarctica has exceeded the size of the South Pole itself.
How big is Antarctica (in terms of extension) and how much is the ozone hole
In fact, this is nothing new: the same thing happened in 2020. Indeed, in the year of the pandemic the extension of the thin layer of gas was even 2 million square kilometers more than the figure of 2021.
The figure for 2021 is not less worrying, however: detected by the Sentinel-5P satellites of the European Space Agency (ESA), the size of the ozone hole at the South Pole is about 23 million square kilometers. This is far greater than the size of Antarctica itself, which in fact covers 14.2 million square kilometers.
Ozone hole at the South Pole, scientists say. What's happening now
"This ozone evolution is what we would expect given current atmospheric conditions," said Antje Inness, a senior scientist at ECMWF, an intergovernmental organization that holds the world's largest archive of numerical weather forecast data. "The progress of the ozone hole over the next few weeks is going to be extremely interesting."
This year's ozone hole has dramatically increased in size over the last two weeks of observations by experts and is now larger than 75 percent of ozone holes at that stage of the season since 1979.
Claus Zehner of Esa added: "Monitoring of the ozone hole over the South Pole needs to be interpreted carefully as the size, duration and ozone concentrations of an individual hole are influenced by the local wind fields, or meteorology, around the South Pole. However, we anticipate the closure of the ozone hole over the South Pole by 2050."
The increase in the extent of the ozone hole is a phenomenon influenced by space tourism, which may not be so marginal in the future. Speaking of the South Pole, here's an ad for a job on Concordia, Italy's research station at the highest latitudes.