A Hole in a Gossamer Veil

This month's image (left) shows a rather unconventional view of the southern hemisphere's ozone hole. Data from the GOME (Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment) instrument on board Europe's ERS-2 satellite have been especially processed at DFD to give a realistic view of how the hole would look if viewed from an altitude of some 800 km by eyes capable of vision in the appropriate part of the electromagnetic spectrum. This particular method of representation was chosen to illustrate the vulnerability and delicacy of earth's protective ozone layer, which is often optimistically called a "shield" in recognition of a role demanding strength and robustness.

The animation in the middle is a timed sequence of ten individual images illustrating the development of the ozone hole over the year 1996. The image on the right shows the far less stable ozone hole of the northern hemisphere. The low ozone concentration near the equator is a natural phenomenon caused by the atmosphere's global dynamic circulation.

Ozone hole of the southern hemisphere Animation of the Ozone hole of the southern hemisphere Ozone hole of the northern hemisphere

The same basic data are conventionally processed in satellite images to show thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer by color coding the various concentrations of ozone in such a way that their relative distribution is evident, such as offered by DFD's ATMOS User Center (AUC). This is a useful representation for many scientific studies concerned with the structure and dynamics of the ozone layer. But the wealth of information contained in libraries of satellite data can increasingly be made available to open completely new perspectives about our planet to many other groups, thanks to modern, powerful computers and innovative data processing approaches. The right visualization of the same set of measurements can in one case give new impulses to basic research, in another increase public sensitivity to the state of our planet, or even improve understanding of political and economic issues. Making the right choice is an increasingly important task for experts who know the possibilities inherent in data processing and the concerns of each particular user community.

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