The 2023 Antarctic ozone hole reached its maximum size at ten million square miles on September 21, which ranks as the 16th largest since 1979, according to annual satellite and balloon-based measurements made by NOAA and NASA.
During the peak of the ozone depletion season from September 7 to October 13, the hole this year averaged 8.9 million square miles, approximately the size of North America. Paul Newman of NASA says, “It’s a very modest ozone hole,” adding, “Declining levels of human-produced chlorine compounds, along with help from active Antarctic stratospheric weather slightly improved ozone levels this year.”
The ozone layer acts like Earth’s natural sunscreen, as this portion of the stratosphere shields our planet from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. Every September, the ozone layer thins to form an “ozone hole” above the Antarctic continent. NOAA and NASA researchers monitor the ozone layer over the pole and globally using instruments aboard NASA’s Aura, NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP and NOAA-20 satellites.