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The Antarctic ozone hole is formed when extremely cold conditions, common in the stratosphere of the Antarctic winter, trigger reactions that convert chlorine into the atmosphere from human produced chemicals in ways that destroy ozone. The same ozone loss processes occur each winter in the Arctic. However, the warmer stratospheric conditions generally do not limit the area affected and the period of time during which chemical reactions occur, resulting in much less ozone loss in most years in the Arctic than the Antarctic.
To investigate Arctic ozone loss in 2011, scientists from 19 institutions in nine countries (U.S., Germany, Holland, Canada, Russia, Finland, Denmark, Japan and Spain) analyzed a comprehensive set of measures. These included daily global observations of trace gases and clouds of NASA's Aura and CALIPSO spacecraft; ozone measured by instrumented balloons, meteorological data and atmospheric models. Scientists have discovered that at some altitudes, the Arctic cold spell lasted more than 30 days longer in 2011 than in any previously studied Arctic winter, leading to unprecedented ozone loss. More studies are needed to determine what factors caused the cold period
By Alan BuisJet Propulsion Laboratory