Last updated at 13:29 GMT, Friday, 13 December 2013

Weather 'behind ozone hole'

Summary

13 December 2013

Scientists have been puzzled by the hole in the ozone layer, which forms each year over Antarctica, but has been changing in size from year to year. Now Nasa researchers say the changes are mostly due to the weather - not the ozone-destroying chemicals in the atmosphere. The findings were presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

Reporter:

Rebecca Morelle

A view of the coast in Antarctica

Is the weather changing the amount of ozone above Antarctica?

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Ozone-damaging substances - such as CFCs - began to be phased out 20 years ago. Since then, the hole in ozone layer stopped getting bigger. However there haven't yet been signs of a full recovery - and damaging UV rays from the sun are still streaming through.

Now scientists from Nasa believe that the weather also plays a key role. Satellite images show that fluctuating air temperatures and winds change the amount of ozone that sits above Antarctica. This means the size of the ozone hole changes year on year.

The team thinks the weather will continue to be the dominant driver in the process until 2030. But after that, as the long-lasting chemicals in the atmosphere finally start to clear, the layer could recover by 2070.

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Vocabulary

phased out

used less and less

streaming through

continuously flowing from one side to the other (here, from outside the earth's atmosphere to inside it)

plays a key role

has a strong influence

fluctuating

continually changing

dominant driver

main cause

to clear

to become less and less until they disappear

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