Is COVID-19 a boon or a curse to mankind? From the looks of things, it's a boon to nature but is a curse to man. Loss of jobs, loss of lives, no vaccine at hand - man needs to act fast. Nature on the other hand only seems to triumph without the intervention of man. Air pollution levels have dropped around the globe making air breathable once again in many parts. Lakhs of flamingos have returned to a creek near Palm Beach Road in Navi Mumbai. The Yamuna river water is finally clear and supposedly drinkable. Jellyfish have been spotted swimming in Venice's canals.
In a nutshell, the world is healing and can function with or without us. Do you know what else is healing? The largest hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic! Here, see for yourself.
The ozone layer is important to us as it shields the earth from most of the harmful UV radiations of the Sun. Without it, life as we know it would disappear from the face of the planet. Once radiations enter the earth, they can damage the DNA of plants, animals, and humans. Not to forget, humans can also develop skin cancer when exposed to these hazardous radiations. Hence, the ozone layer is dear to us.
According to Copernicus' Atmospheric Monitoring Service, Europe's earth monitoring programme, the largest hole in the ozone layer observed over the arctic has closed.
Sometime in March, scientists observed a strange rare hole forming and they believed that it had to do with the low temperatures at the north pole. The hole would have been a serious threat to mankind if it had moved further south to populated areas. On April 23, Copernicus announced on Twitter that the hole had now closed.
It's important to understand that the lockdown and consequent reduction in pollution levels because of it had no direct role to play in this. It's due to the polar vortex, the high altitude currents in the Earth's atmosphere near the poles bringing cold air to the polar regions, that caused the hole in the ozone layer. In an interview with Euronews, Copernicus scientist Antje Inness said, "It is very unusual for such a strong ozone depletion to occur in the northern hemisphere, but this year's polar vortex was exceptionally strong and persistent, and temperatures were low enough to allow stratospheric clouds to form for several months."
In recent days, the polar vortex has broken up and weakened. Copernicus predicts it will form again, but without affecting the ozone layer as much. That's good news! The ozone layer is found in the lower part of the stratosphere, the second layer around Earth's atmosphere.
So what caused the hole to form in the ozone layer over the Arctic in the first place? What we know as of now is that it was caused because of the strong and consistent polar vortex that resulted in the concentration of more ozone-depleting chemicals than usual. However, some still speculate if climate change was also responsible for this. Only time will tell.