Ozone is a molecule comprised of three oxygen atoms. A layer of ozone high in the atmosphere – about 9 to 18 miles (15 to 30 km) up – surrounds the entire Earth. It protects life on our planet from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
In the 1980s, scientists began to realize that ozone-depleting chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), were creating a thin spot – a hole – in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Through an international effort to decrease the use of CFCs, the ozone layer is starting to mend, and scientists believe it should mostly recover by the middle of the 21st century. This series of satellite images shows the ozone hole on the day of its maximum depth from 1979 through 2018.
Bottom line: The ozone hole over Antarctica is slowly closing up.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.