A large area of intense stratospheric ozone depletion over the Antarctic continent that typically occurs annually between late August and early October, and generally ends in mid-November. This severe ozone thinning has increased conspicuously since the late seventies and early eighties. This phenomenon is the result of chemical mechanisms initiated by man-made chlorofluorocarbons. Continued buildup of CFCs is expected to lead to additional ozone loss worldwide.

The thinning is focused in the Antarctic because of particular meteorological conditions there. During Austral spring (September and October in the Southern Hemisphere) a belt of stratospheric winds encircles Antarctica essentially isolating the cold stratospheric air there from the warmer air of the middle latitudes. The frigid air permits the formation of ice clouds that facilitate chemical interactions among nitrogen, hydrogen, and chlorine (elevated from CFCs) atoms, the end product of which is the destruction of ozone.

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