Worst Antarctic Ozone Hole Ever; Media Blackout Almost Complete
By Jim Scanlon

NASA's Earth Probe TOMS, a satellite which measures stratospheric ozone, ran out of fuel to maneuver and suddenly stopped working December 12, so there is no quality information on ozone beyond that date. Nevertheless, December 12 easily marks a new record for the duration of our Primary Ozone Hole . Throughout the 1990s, it has grown, extended, deepened and lasted longer and longer like a progressive disease. Each year scientists say the Ozone Hole , "can't get much worse!", and it gets much worse. Some predict it will "heal" in a decade, or two, or three or four-maybe-if all goes well!

The isolate cold air of the Antarctic Vortex used to break up in mid October, then it extended into November and now it has extended into December. This means that stronger springtime sunshine passes through ozone poor air, allowing greater amounts of shorter wave ultraviolet light to penetrate lower into the troposphere and on to the surface.

The North Polar Arctic Vortex in the last ten years has stabilized, more often than not, cooled, and has lost ozone catastrophically in the late winter and early spring.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, 1998 was the largest and strongest ozone hole ever. The sunlit area with ozone values less than 220 Dobson Units was larger than 10 million square kilometers for more than 100 days. The previous record was 87 days. At it's maximum extent this year, the Ozone Hole covered more than 22 million sq. kms for 20 days.

The estimated springtime ozone loss was 7,600 Megatons or 25% more than the average of the previous seasons of this decade. In addition, this season provided extremely low monthly averages above ground based stations. The overall average for the region was the lowest ever, approximately 40% of the pre 1976 average.

Huge pockets of ozone poor air covered populated parts of South America seven times this year compared to five times last year. Ushuaia, in Argentina, reported a low of 191 Dobson Units on December 8 (in 1997 it's low was 166) and the Southern Atlantic and Indian Ocean as far north as 50 South were under low ozone for a number of day. The ecological consequences of stronger sunshine and very low ozone are unknown.

A well equipped American Scientific Research ship, the Lawrence Gould was on station in the Weddell Sea to study the effects of increased ultraviolet radiation on the chemistry of sea water and the enormous plankton blooms that thrive in the fertile waters under the weak springtime sunlight. The last such expedition in 1992 found that increased amounts of shorter wavelength ultraviolet light inhibited photosynthesis by from 12-17%. Plankton are the foundation of the ocean food chain. The Coastal Post learned from the Chief Scientist of the expedition that the 1998 results were roughly consistent with the earlier study.

No one is studying plant, human or animal health on the tip of South America, and, if there are studies, they are not being published, if any are being published, no one is reporting them.

Normally, the US media makes regular, detailed announcements on the beginning, extent, duration and end of the Antarctic Ozone Hole, but not this year. The Coastal Post reported previously on Media denial, censorship and blackout of information on the Arctic Ozone Hole (August 1998). This taboo on ozone and ultraviolet continues.

What is crucial to understanding the ever worsening ozone loss is that the amount of chlorine in the stratosphere is not as important as the temperature. That is, the driving force in ozone depletion is low temperature which continues to decline in the stratosphere. So, chlorine could go way down, but if temperatures go down too, you get the same or worse ozone destruction.

This is right now---not twenty, or fifty years in the abstract future! The cause of this rapid decrease is a combination of the retention of heat by greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere which cools the stratosphere, and the further cooling of the stratosphere by the absence of ozone.

To put it simply: "Global warming causes ozone depletion". The Montreal Protocol was a "life jacket", which keeps us alive for a while. The Kyoto limits on heat trapping gases, perhaps a "lifeboat" offers somewhat longer term survival.

Chlorine is usually defined as the identified "culprit" in ozone destruction which has been taken care of by the Montreal Protocol Reputable scientist regularly discuss when we will begin to observe the start of "The Recovery" 2019 and 2014 are dates seen lately.

This false, but satisfying approach, might be compared to a person who has stopped smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and now smokes a half a pack-plus a few cigars-talking about when he will observe an improvement in his health.

And considering the media news blackout over the Arctic Ozone Hole, it seems bizarre in the extreme that NASA can report "Arctic Ozone Depletion" as one of the top ten stories of 1998! (Release 98-58 Increasing Greenhouse Gases May Be Worsening Arctic Ozone Depletion And May Delay Ozone Recovery.) NASA seems to be trying to tell us something.

Scientists are not activists, nor should they be. The information is there ! It is all over the place! But there is a split, a separation between this reality and the false reality reported by the global corporate media. It seems that only catastrophe will bridge this split and with chlorine loading expected to worsen for 15 or 20 years and greenhouse gases expected to cool and change stratospheric winds, there will be plenty of time for catastrophes.

A major explosive volcano might trigger a reaction-or-Monica or O.J. might get skin cancer....

By the way, NASA does not have a back up for the troubled TOMS satellite, and congressional zealots totally eliminated funding for the Agricultural Department's ultraviolet monitoring network.

Happy New Year!