Largest ozone hole ever recorded above the Arctic has CLOSED just weeks after scientists first announced its existence
- The largest ozone hole ever documented in the Arctic has disappeared
- The closure comes just weeks after the hole was first announced by scientists
- Experts believe the hole was formed by unusually cold winter temperatures
- Unexpectedly warm spring temperatures caused the hole to disappear again just as quickly as it had first appeared
The largest ozone hole ever documented above the North Pole has closed almost as quickly as it formed.
The hole formed earlier this year and reached its maximum size in March some 11 miles above the surface of the Earth.
It was the largest ozone hole ever documented over the Arctic, beating the previous record holder, which was observed during the 2011 winter.
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The largest hole ever documented above the Arctic, which was observed in March, has closed against a matter of weeks after it was first made public
Researchers with Copernicus’ Atmospheric Monitoring Service believed the hole was caused by an unusually strong polar vortex, which explained its relatively sudden growth, according to a report in CNN.
The polar vortex is a high altitude current that circulates in an irregular ring-like pattern around the Arctic and helps keep cold air trapped above the pole.
When temperatures drop to a low enough point, polar stratospheric clouds (PCS) can form, which can in turn activate ozone-depleting chemicals like chlorine in the atmosphere.
On average, temperatures above the Arctic aren’t quite as cold as those above Antarctica, which makes the seasonal appearance of ozone holes in the north rare, while it is a yearly phenomenon in the south.
‘It is very unusual for such strong ozone depletion to occur in the northern hemisphere, but this year’s polar vortex was exceptionally strong and persistent, and temperatures were low enough to allow stratospheric cloud formation for several months,’ Copernicus’ Antje Inness told Euro News.
Ozone helps filter ultaviolet light from the atmosphere, and when holes appear it means more harmful solar radiation is penetrating the atmosphere and reaching the Earth’s surface.
Some suggested the rapid disappearance of the ozone hole might have been caused by the radical reductions in air pollution during the worldwide COVID-19 shutdowns but the CAMS team have rejected the idea.
‘COVID19 and the associated lockdowns probably had nothing to do with this,’ the group wrote in a Twitter post.
‘It’s been driven by an unusually strong and long-lived polar vortex, and isn’t related to air quality changes.’
Researchers believe the ozone hole closed as unusually warm spring temperatures heated air in the polar vortex and broke up the ozone-depleting polar stratospheric clouds that helped the hole form during an atypically cold winter
According to researchers at Copernicus’ Atmospheric Monitoring Service, Arctic temperatures in April were as much as 36 degrees Fahrenheit above their normal levels, causing the polar vortex to break up into two smaller vortices
Just as the hole rapidly formed due to unusually cold polar vortex, the team say its disappearance is likely a result of the polar vortex warming, which causes it to begin mixing with ozone-rich air from the lower atmosphere, offsetting the temporary depletion.
While the winter months may have helped drive the polar vortex to unusually low temperatures, the team hole’s dissipation has been driven by what researchers decribe as a ‘heat wave’ with temperatures as much as 36 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual.
The heat has already caused the polar vortex to shrink so rapidly that it’s broken apart into two smaller and separate vortices.
WHAT IS THE OZONE LAYER?
Ozone is a molecule comprised of three oxygen atoms that occurs naturally in small amounts.
In the stratosphere, roughly seven to 25 miles above Earth’s surface, the ozone layer acts like sunscreen, shielding the planet from potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts, suppress immune systems and also damage plants.
It is produced in tropical latitudes and distributed around the globe.
Closer to the ground, ozone can also be created by photochemical reactions between the sun and pollution from vehicle emissions and other sources, forming harmful smog.
Although warmer-than-average stratospheric weather conditions have reduced ozone depletion during the past two years, the current ozone hole area is still large compared to the 1980s, when the depletion of the ozone layer above Antarctica was first detected.
In the stratosphere, roughly seven to 25 miles above Earth’s surface, the ozone layer acts like sunscreen, shielding the planet from potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation
This is because levels of ozone-depleting substances like chlorine and bromine remain high enough to produce significant ozone loss.
In the 1970s, it was recognised that chemicals called CFCs, used for example in refrigeration and aerosols, were destroying ozone in the stratosphere.
In 1987, the Montreal Protocol was agreed, which led to the phase-out of CFCs and, recently, the first signs of recovery of the Antarctic ozone layer.
The upper stratosphere at lower latitudes is also showing clear signs of recovery, proving the Montreal Protocol is working well.
But the new study, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, found it is likely not recovering at latitudes between 60°N and 60°S (London is at 51°N).
The cause is not certain but the researchers believe it is possible climate change is altering the pattern of atmospheric circulation – causing more ozone to be carried away from the tropics.
They say another possibility is that very short-lived substances (VSLSs), which contain chlorine and bromine, could be destroying ozone in the lower stratosphere.
VSLSs include chemicals used as solvents, paint strippers, and as degreasing agents.
One is even used in the production of an ozone-friendly replacement for CFCs.
How to watch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon dock with the International Space Station live – The Verge
On Saturday afternoon, SpaceX launched its first human crew to space for NASA on the company’s new Crew Dragon spacecraft — but the mission isn’t over yet. After spending nearly a full day in orbit, the two passengers on board SpaceX’s vehicle, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, will attempt to dock with the International Space Station this morning.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has an automatic docking system, which uses a series of sensors and cameras to help the vehicle approach the ISS and then grab on to an existing docking port. The Crew Dragon successfully tested out this technique last year when SpaceX launched a test version of the vehicle to the ISS without crew on board. But this time, the Crew Dragon will carry very precious cargo.
While the Crew Dragon is capable of getting Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the station on its own, the two astronauts do plan to do some manual flying when they get close to the ISS. Somewhere between 220 and 170 meters out from the station, the crew will practice flying the capsule manually, using the vehicle’s touchscreen interface inside. Once they’re done, the automatic system will take over again, and the Crew Dragon will do the rest of the work to get to the station.
NASA is providing round-the-clock coverage of the Crew Dragon’s mission right now, but things kick off this morning when Behnken and Hurley do a broadcast from inside the Crew Dragon. Docking will come about a few hours later at 10:29AM ET. All of the events will take place live on NASA’s TV stream above.
Trump Given False Credit For Bush- And Obama-Era Space Program
Today the Space X Dragon “Endeavor” launched. It was the first time since 2011 that the U.S. had launched humans into space. The Commercial Crew Development Program was started during the George W. Bush administration, and was expanded through the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, approved by Congress and signed by President Obama.
JimBridenstine, the Administrator of NASA, was nominated by President Trump in 2017 and the Senate confirmed him in 2018 with a party-line vote, 50-49. All previous NASA administrators have been scientists or engineers — Bridenstine is neither. He is the first politician to head NASA.
Bridenstine gave a speech after the launch where the focus was put on the accomplishments of Trump, and the previous administrations’ roles in this mission were never mentioned. Bridenstine made a point to mention that there were layoffs at NASA in 2010, a pointed jab at the Obama administration. The reason for the layoffs was that the space shuttle missions were wrapping up. As you read above, the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, signed by President Obama, expanded the crew development program. All contracts for today’s mission, including SpaceX’s, were completed during the Obama administration. Trump and Pence also spoke at the event. Space.com described Trump’s address after the launch as something that “sounded like a campaign speech.”
Later, Bridenstine gave an interview where the questions were focused on Trump. Bridenstine offered, “We now have an administration that is fully supportive of our spaceflight initiatives…but also from a Space Force perspective.” Keep in mind, again, that the crew development program was started during the George W. Bush administration, and expanded during the Obama administration.
The U.S. Air Force already had jurisdiction over space, so the creation of the Space Force was redundant. Astronaut Mark Kelly said of Space Force in a tweet, “This is a dumb idea. The Air Force does this already. That is their job. What’s next? We move submarines to the 7th branch and call it the under-the-sea force?”
Bridenstine added during the interview, “[Trump] also said were going to go to the moon by 2024. That means he’s putting himself at risk to say, ‘look, I’m going to be accountable, potentially, I’m going to be accountable to the initiatives that I put forward,’ and I think that’s, we have not had that kind of leadership for space in a long, long time and I’m so grateful for it.”
A plan to go to the moon, as you can expect, takes years of preparation. Much longer than Trump has been in office. It’s unclear what risk Bridenstine was referring to, as the initiatives for the crew development program were begun during the George W. Bush administration.
This speech and interview were a marked shift from statements Bridenstine made three days prior, a day before the initial planned Dragon launch. On May 27th, an interview with Elon Musk and Bridenstine had comments from Bridenstine that focused on the contributions of NASA and SpaceX to the Dragon mission and didn’t mention Trump at all.
Three days later, what appeared originally to be a NASA administrator that is a little out of his element but just really likes space turned into an administrator that rarely acknowledged the endless amount of manpower put into the crew development program. Bridenstine appeared to go from space enthusiast to Trump campaign manager.
Some space enthusiasts expressed dismay at Bridenstine’s speech and interview, including the constant focus on Trump. Journalist Henry Brean tweeted, “What better moment is there for the NASA administrator to talk about the big risk the president is taking than when two astronauts are riding a rocket into space?”
Edited By Harry Miller
Where to Watch Today's NASA & SpaceX Launch Live – TV Guide
Update 5/30 11 a.m. ET: The SpaceX/NASA launch is scheduled for Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m. ET, barring any changes. You can watch a live stream of the launch on NASA’s YouTube channel or on its website, or on SpaceX’s YouTube channel. If today’s launch is scrubbed, they’ll try again tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET.
Update 5/27 1:15 p.m. PT: Due to weather concerns, the SpaceX Launch of NASA astronauts was called off on Wednesday, May 27, but the plan is to reschedule for later this week. The next opportunities to launch are Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m. ET and Sunday, May 31 at 3 p.m. ET.
America will meet a couple of milestone moments on Wednesday as a spacecraft carrying astronauts takes off from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011 — and for the first time from a commercial, non-government spacecraft.
Two passengers, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, will shoot up into the great beyond from the Kennedy Space Center aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule; they’re expected to lift off from the pad 39A at 4:33 p.m. EST for a 19-hour journey to the International Space Station where they will stay approximately one to four months. Lucky for us, all the historic action is able to be watched online and on TV. Here’s how to watch:
NASA will began broadcasting live views of Crew Dragon and its Falcon 9 rocket at 12 p.m. EST. You can watch through the NASA website, on USA Today and on the NASA TV channel. NASA is also hosting a virtual #LaunchAmerica event with video tours. You can also watch on NASA Live, NASA’s YouTube, NASA’s Twitter, and NASA’s Facebook page.
The SpaceX YouTube channel is live streaming a moment-by-moment play of the launch with lots of behind-the-scenes intel and action. The feed is embedded above.
ABC News and the National Geographic Channel
ABC News and the National Geographic Channel will provide two days worth of launch coverage, with Launch America: Mission to Space Live beginning at 3 p.m. EST on Wednesday. ABC News Live, the National Geographic Channel and YouTube TV are also capturing the exciting mission as it unfolds.
Discovery Channel and Science Channel
Discovery Channel and the Science Channel will host a three-hour simulcast “Space Launch Live: America Returns to Space,” starting Wednesday at 2 p.m. EST. Guests will include Katy Perry, former NASA engineer and other celebrity guests. Discovery Go is also hosting that program.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule are expected to launch on Wednesday, May 27 at 4:33 p.m. EST.
How to watch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon dock with the International Space Station live – The Verge
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