NASA scientists reported today that the ozone hole over the antarctic has reached its largest-ever size and will continue to grow through October. Contrary to the jokes made about this by politicians, this is an extremely serious development because the opening of this ozone-free area causes thinning of the layer worldwide. A thinner ozone covering during a solar maximum means that possibly signifcant increases in radiation could reach the earth’s surface during solar storms. It is not likely that this would be life-threatening, but higher than expected levels of such radiation could affect power systems and other shielded devices, because shielding standards have been set to assumed radiation levels lower than might now occur.

In Geneva, the World Meteorological Organization said, “It is remarkable to find these low values so early in September, perhaps one or two weeks earlier than in any previous year.”

“The fact that it’ s real big right now is kind of a surprise,” said Dr. Paul A. Newman of NASA’ s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The hole is caused in part by various gasses, such as flurocarbons and halogen, but is also made worse by higher temperatures in the stratosphere, and stratospheric temperatures have been rising in recent years, especially over the poles.

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