GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — United Nations experts have announced findings that the ozone layer over the North Pole appears to have stabilized, after years of pollution-based thinning. However, they caution that the gain may only be temporary, and may not be related to global cuts in the use of harmful chemicals. Michael Proffitt, a senior scientific officer at the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization, said, “At the peak of the solar cycle there’s an intensity of radiation that produces more ozone. Therefore, you’re going to find less sign of ozone depletion.

“The sun is now moving back into an 11-year period of declining radiation, meaning the production of ozone will be at its lowest in 2006. Also, a return to colder winters would likely cause Arctic ozone levels to fall faster.” Ozone layer depletion has been monitored over the Arctic and Antarctica because of concerns that with its depletion, ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause skin cancer and destroy tiny plants. The hole in the ozone above Antarctica is believed to be responsible for a rise in skin cancer cases in Argentina, Australia, and Chile. “In essence, warmer temperatures in the atmosphere mean cooler temperatures in the stratosphere, where the ozone is,” said Proffitt. “And cold means ozone depletion.

Publication date: 04/30/2001