Antarctica is the Earth’s southernmost continent, located on the South Pole, where temperatures can be as low as -90C. Anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 scientists reside there at various research facilities, carrying out their own experiments. However, one discovery made by the British Antarctic Survey left the scientific world shocked, it was revealed during BBC Radio 4’s “In Our Time – Antarctica” broadcast.
In May 1985, Joseph Farman, Brian Gardiner and Jonathan Shanklin observed a decline in the polar ozone was far larger than believed.
David Walton, who passed away last month, revealed how the find was groundbreaking for science.
He said: “The greatest discovery probably in the last 30 years was the ozone hole.
“That changed our perception of how we viewed the atmosphere and so on.
“But not only that, the fossils have been brilliant too.
“They change the way we understand continental drift and paleoclimate and the way in which we build models of future predictions.”
The discovery of the ozone hole was initially rejected as unreasonable but later studies showed that the initial concerns were valid.
Since 1981, the United Nations Environment Programme has sponsored a series of technical reports on the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion to reverse the effects.
In 2007, a report was released that showed the hole in the ozone layer was recovering and was the smallest it had been for around a decade.
The 2010 paper read: “Over the past decade, global ozone and ozone in the Arctic and Antarctic regions is no longer decreasing but is not yet increasing.
“The ozone layer outside the Polar regions is projected to recover to its pre-1980 levels before the middle of this century.
“In contrast, the springtime ozone hole over the Antarctic is expected to recover much later.”
In 2012, NASA confirmed the hole had decreased once again.
They revealed: “Warmer air temperatures high above the Antarctic led to the second smallest season ozone hole in 20 years averaging 17.9 million square kilometres.
“The hole reached its maximum size for the season on September 22, stretching to 21.2 million square kilometres (13.8 million square miles).”
It comes after it was revealed what NASA is really up to on the icy continent.
Jane Francis, Director of the British Antarctic Survey, detailed why the space agency is so keen to explore the frozen desert.
Dr Francis said in 2010: “It is just a fantastic natural laboratory, you can go to Antarctica and the scientists can work very high on the top of the ice sheet.
“This means you can work at high altitude, the atmosphere is very clean, there’s little pollution and you can see space easily.
“This means you can work on space exploration and view the ozone hole without any issues.
“It is a fantastic natural laboratory.”