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Ozone hole on the mend as messenger dies

The 5,400-pound ERBS satellite re-entered the atmosphere over the Bering Sea yesterday

USA/NAIROBI: A day after the original satellite that provided data for the Montreal Protocol Agreement finally expired, the UN has announced that the Antarctic ozone hole will heal by 2066.

The UN-backed Scientific Assessment Panel to the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances quadrennial assessment report, published today, has confirmed the phase out of nearly 99% of banned ozone-depleting substances. 

If current policies remain in place, the ozone layer is expected to recover to 1980 values (before the appearance of the ozone hole) by around 2066 over the Antarctic, by 2045 over the Arctic and by 2040 for the rest of the world. 

Coincidentally, NASA’s retired Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS), which first carried instruments to measure stratospheric ozone, burned up in Earth’s atmosphere yesterday after almost four decades in space. 

Launched from the Space Shuttle Challenger in October 1984, the ERBS spacecraft far exceeded its expected two-year service life, operating until its retirement in 2005. The Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment II (SAGE II) on the ERBS collected important data that confirmed the ozone layer was declining on a global scale. That data helped shape the international Montreal Protocol Agreement, resulting in a dramatic decrease around the globe in the use of ozone-destroying CFCs. 

The responsibility for collecting data on the health of the ozone layer today rests with SAGE III on the International Space Station.

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