Brian Dunbar Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

October 18, 1993 (Phone: 202/358-1547) Allen Kenitzer Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. (Phone: 301/286-8955) Tim Tomastik NOAA Public Affairs, Washington, D.C. (Phone: 202/482-6090) RELEASE: 93-190 1993 ANTARCTIC OZONE HOLE REACHES RECORD LOWS Antarctic ozone levels have reached record lows, according to data obtained by scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Climate Monitoring and Diagnostic Lab, Boulder, Colo. These record low levels were recorded at the South Pole Station, Antarctica, at the end of September and early October 1993 and confirmed by satellite measurements. Preliminary data from NASA's Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS), on the Russian Meteor-3 satellite, showed values less than 100 Dobson units (DU) in a region near the South Pole. On Oct. 6, a balloon-borne ozone sensor flown by NOAA measured only 90 DU, down from 275 DU in mid-August. The balloon measurement has an uncertainty of 5 DU more or less than the measured level. A Dobson unit is the physical thickness of the ozone layer if it were brought to the Earth's surface (300 Dobson units equals 3 millimeters, approximately 1/10th of an inch). These low measurements were confirmed by a surface-based

Dobson spectrophotometer in Antarctica, which measured 88 DU on Oct. 6. These are the lowest values of total column ozone ever measured, anywhere in the world. Previous research by NASA, NOAA and scientists around the world have linked the annual cycle of severe Antarctic ozone depletion to the release of certain chlorine compounds and other chemicals through human activities. Recent international agreements to phase out the use of these chemicals should allow ozone levels to recover over the next century. - more -2"Deep ozone holes will continue to form annually, into the next century," said Dr. Jay R. Herman, research scientist, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. "This situation will persist until stratospheric chlorine levels decrease." Ozone, a molecule made up of three atoms of oxygen, comprises a thin layer of the atmosphere which absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The term "ozone hole" is used to describe a large area of intense ozone depletion that occurs annually over the Antarctica during late August through early October and typically breaks up in late November. The balloon-borne measurements indicated that ozone was totally destroyed between the altitudes of 8.4 and 11.8 miles (13.5 and 19 kilometers) creating an ozone void 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) thick. "This is an extension upward of the ozone hole as we have known it in the past," said David J. Hoffman, senior scientist at the NOAA Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, Boulder, Colo. "A very stable, cold situation in the upper reachers of the atmosphere over Antarctica in September of 1993, which could prolong the chemical ozone-depletion process, and increasing stratospheric chlorine levels may have combined to result in the record depth and vertical extent of the ozone hole this year." The surface area covered by the 1993 ozone hole was nearly as large as the record 1992 ozone hole. The ozone hole reached a maximum extent of 9 million square miles (23.4 million square kilometers) on Sept. 21, based on the preliminary TOMS data.

The largest hole ever observed was in 1992, when the hole had an extent of 9.4 million square-miles (24.4 million square-kilometers) on Sept. 27, 1992. In comparison, the surface area of North America is 8.1 million square-miles (21 million square-kilometers), while Antarctica has a surface area of 5.4 million square-miles (14.1 million square-kilometers). Since the mid-1980s, the region covered by low total ozone has begun to grow each year in early August. This region has reached its maximum extent in late September and its greatest depth in early October. Scientists have determined that chlorine products from human activities, such as electronics and refrigeration uses, are a primary cause for the ozone hole formation. This and last year's hole also may have been affected by the continued presence of sulfuric acid in the upper atmosphere created by the June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

- more -3Since the discovery of the ozone hole in 1985, TOMS has been the key instrument for monitoring ozone levels throughout the southern hemisphere. The TOMS aboard NASA's Nimbus-7 satellite measured Antarctic ozone levels from November 1978 to May 1993. During its lifetime on Nimbus 7, TOMS made "ozone" a household word through images of the Antarctic ozone hole. TOMS data also provided part of the scientific underpinning for the Montreal Protocol, under which many of the world's developed nations have agreed to phase out the use of ozone-depleting chemicals. The NASA TOMS instrument on the Russian Meteor-3 satellite has been measuring ozone since its launch in 1991 and since May 1993, it has been the primary source of NASA's ozone data. A third TOMS instrument is scheduled for launch onboard a U.S. Earth Probe satellite in 1994 and a fourth aboard the Japanese Advanced Earth Observing Satellite in 1996. TOMS is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth Program

(MPTE), which is studying how the global environment is changing. Using the unique perspective available from space, NASA is observing, monitoring and assessing large-scale environmental processes. TOMS and other satellite data, complemented by aircraft and ground data, will allow scientists to better understand natural environmental changes and to distinguish natural changes from human-induced changes. MTPE data, which NASA will distribute to researchers worldwide, is essential to humans making informed decisions about protecting their environment. The TOMS instruments are managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center for NASA's Office of Mission to Planet Earth, Washington, D.C. Since 1986, NOAA has been conducting year-round ozone balloon flights in the harsh South Pole climate, often reaching temperatures as a low as minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Lab also operates a series of Dobson spectrophotometers to monitor ozone around the world, including the South Pole and at Barrow, Alaska. - end Note to Editors: A false-color image showing ozone levels over Antarctica for Oct. 6, 1993, is available from NASA's Broadcast and Imaging Branch, 202/358-1900. Color: 93-HC-421 B&W: 93-H-469