After a remarkably cold winter, the first signs of ozone
depletion have been observed in the Arctic. If the low
temperatures persist during the coming months, large
ozone losses will be highly likely this spring.
The marked depletion of the ozone layer over the Arctic was
discovered in the 1980s. It has negative effects on human
health (intensified ultraviolet rays cause skin cancer) and
biodiversity. According to a Commission press release, a
hole in the ozone layer in the Arctic could affect the polar
regions, Scandinavia and possibly even central Europe.
European research initiative SCOUT-03 has
been studying the links between stratospheric ozone and climate
change in the Arctic since May 2004. The project observes changes
in the thickness of the ozone layer on a daily basis to predict
future development of the ozone layer in global climate
models. Fifty nine institutions and over 200 scientists
from 19 countries are participating in this initiative.
Overall temperatures in the ozone layer in the Arctic are
currently the lowest in 50 years and have been
consistently low for the past two months. “The meteorological
conditions resemble and even surpass the conditions of the
1999-2000 winter when the worst ozone loss to date was observed.
February and March, will be the crucial months for ozone loss in
the Arctic,” says Dr. Neil Harris, one of the co-ordinators of
the SCOUT-03 project.