Despite successful efforts to curb the use of ozone-depleting chemicals, a complete recovery will take decades. The microwave technology specifically also allowed researchers to study gases during Antarctica's dark winters, as most satellites require sunlight to measure gases.
Hailed as an example of how concerted global action can help solve a planetary crisis, a new study conducted by NASA scientists documented the first direct evidence that an worldwide effort to ban chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has led to the recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole.
"During this period, Antarctic temperatures are always very low, so the rate of ozone destruction depends mostly on how much chlorine there is", Strahan said. "And even then, there might still be a small hole".
At ground level, ozone or smog is a poisonous chemical often expelled by vehicle exhaust.
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This gas is crucial to the survival of life on Earth as it soaks up harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which can cause cancer and cataracts, suppress immune systems and damage plant life. Ozone holes occur naturally from cooling, but man-made chemicals greatly accelerate their formation. This releases chlorine atoms that destroy ozone gas - a form of oxygen. Currently, the ozone hole above Antarctica is the size of North America, which sounds gigantic.
An worldwide ban on substances called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has resulted in a reduction in the amount of chlorine present in the atmosphere, which was damaging the ozone layer.
Using measurements from their Aura satellite, NASA scientists have been studying chlorine levels within the Antarctic ozone hole over the last several years, and those levels have been decreasing.
NASA's latest announcement came in November where it said that the layer measured was now smallest since that in 1988.
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Past studies have used statistical analyses of changes in the ozone hole's size to argue that ozone depletion is decreasing.
The findings are based on yearly MLS measurements conducted between 2005 and 2016.
The study, published Thursday in Geophysical Research Letters, reveals that a decline in ozone-depleting chemicals has resulted in 20 percent less depletion since 2005.
"This is very close to what our model predicts we should see for this amount of chlorine decline". "This gives us confidence that the decrease in ozone depletion through mid-September shown by [Microwave Limb Sounder] data is due to the declining levels of chlorine coming from CFCs". "As far as the ozone hole being gone, we're looking at 2060 or 2080".
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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, reacted to the report in a letter to House Democrats Friday, "This is alarming". Spending legislation requires 60 votes to advance in the upper chamber and Republicans only have 52 members.