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For more information contact:

Wade Sisler
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771
Phone: (301) 286-6256

TOMS AGU Handout page

California Fire Sequence page

China Sequence page


NOAA Ozone Layer Information

Aura Mission


Today's Ozone from TOMS

Meteorological Conditions and Ozone in the Polar Stratosphere

Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory

Ozone Hole Monitoring

2003 Southern Hemisphere Ozone Hole Area

2002 Antarctic Ozone Hole Top Story page

2003 Arctic Ozone Hole Top Story page

Viewable Images

High Resolution TIF images:

Images 2 - 5: (14 MB EACH)

July 1, 2003 TIF
August 31, 2003 TIF
September 29, 2003 TIF
November 03, 2003 TIF

Images 6 - 9: (16 MB EACH)

July 1, 2003 TIF

August 31, 2003 TIF
September 29, 2003 TIF
November 03, 2003 TIF

A high resolution image of the Aura satellite

Story Archives

The Top Story Archive listing can be found by clicking on this link.

All stories found on a Top Story page or the front page of this site have been archived from most to least current on this page.

For a list of recent press releases, click here.

December 08, 2003 - (date of web publication)

25 Years of TOMS-2003 AGU Fall Meeting

Click here to view the TOMS AGU handout



TOMS satellite

Item 1

TOMS has flown on three different satellite over the past 25 years, starting with NIMBUS 7 1978-1993, followed by Meteor 3 from 1991-1994, and Earth Probe Satellite, shown in this animation, from 1996 to present.

For the last 25 years, NASA's Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) instruments have been looking at ozone and making daily maps of the ozone content of the atmosphere across the globe, showing scientists the evolution of the ozone hole from 1979 to today. This data was an essential factor in establishing international agreements that banned ozone destroying chlorofluorocarbons and halons. Years of TOMS measurements and TOMS studies have led to new capabilities and applications for this instrument: detection of desert dust and biomass burning aerosols, detection of sulfur dioxide and ash from volcanic eruptions, measurements of low level ozone or smog, and measurements of UV radiation at Earth's surface.

The Antarctic Ozone Hole 2003

July 1, 2003 ozone hole  

August 31, 2003 ozone hole

July 1, 2003 August 31, 2003
September 29, 2003 ozone hole

November 03, 2003 ozone hole

September 29, 2003 November 03, 2003
Items 2 - 5
Click here to see animation of annual growth and decay of the 2003 Antarctic ozone hole.

TOMS provides dramatic visual evidence of the annual growth and decay of the Antarctic ozone hole. The ozone losses over Antarctica result from reactions with the products of man-made chlorine and bromine compounds. Because of the tilt of the Earth's axis, continuous darkness falls at the South Pole from March 21 to September 21. The dark region in the middle of the July 1 total ozone picture, shown above, is polar night, where TOMS cannot make measurements. Ozone losses are in blue. Beginning in August, returning sunlight reaches the edges of Antarctica providing chlorine and bromine compounds with energy to rapidly destroy ozone. By mid September, the ozone loss peaks, creating an ozone hole over Antarctic.

Ground Level UV Exposure

July 1, 2003 Ground Level UV Exposure  

August 31, 2003 Ground Level UV Exposure

July 1, 2003 August 31, 2003
September 29, 2003 Ground Level UV Exposure

November 03, 2003 Ground Level UV Exposure

September 29, 2003 November 03, 2003
Items 6 - 9

Large Ozone hole means more ultraviolet exposure. TOMS tracks solar ultraviolet (UV-B radiation) measured at 290-320 nanometer wavelengths. Loss of stratospheric ozone has been linked to skin cancer in humans. Increased UV-B exposures for Southern continents can seriously impact phytoplankton and other species. Red is for high UV exposure and blue is for low UV exposure. For more information on erythemal UV exposure, click here.

Nearing The Road To Recovery?



October 10, 1981 ozone hole

Item 10

Click image above to see animation of time series of maximum areas from 1979 to 2003 (excluding 1995). Ozone losses are in blue.

Continuous long-term monitoring of ozone levels is crucial in determining how much ozone loss is attributable to human activities and how much is the result of natural atmospheric processes. The ozone hole grew larger throughout the late 1980's and early 1990's, as shown in this time series of maximum areas from 1979 to 2003 (excluding 1995). Ozone losses are in blue. Last year's unusual reduction in ozone losses proved just that - unusual, and not a sign of recovery. This year the hole reached nearly the same size as 2000 and 2001, larger than the North American continent. While the manufacture and use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons that contribute to yearly ozone destruction have decreased, the chemicals will linger in the upper atmosphere for decades before the ozone layer will consistently recover.

Arctic Losses Closer To Home

Winter of 1997   winter of 2000
Winter of 1997 Winter of 2000
winter of 2003
Winter of 2003
Items 11 - 13
Click on images above to view animations of each winter over time. Ozone losses are in blue.

While the Antarctic regularly experiences ozone losses, warmer temperatures in the Arctic prevent such massive losses from occurring as often near the North Pole. However, when large Arctic ozone losses occur, the depletion can threaten populated areas with harmful doses of ultraviolet rays. Here we show the winters of 1997, 2000, and 2003, particularly severe losses stretching over populated areas such as Northern Europe. Data from TOMS-EP.

Polar Stratospheric Clouds



polar stratospheric clouds

Item 14


The clouds in the middle of the photo are polar stratospheric cloud, or sometimes referred to as mother of pearl clouds. These clouds are found at altitudes of 60-70,000 feet and are composed of particles containing nitric acid, water, and sulfuric acid.

In the stratosphere, 15-50 kilometers (9-31 miles) above Earth, extreme low temperatures lead to the formation of polar stratospheric clouds. These clouds of nitric acid- water particles lead to the break down of ozone and allow harmful ultraviolet rays to reach Earth's surface. Extremely low Arctic temperatures enabled polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) to last longer during the 1999-2000 winter, causing additional ozone loss.

Tracking Aerosol - An Unexpected Gift

TOMS was not originally designed to study dust storms, smoke or pollution. While studying ozone, scientists noticed that something was interfering with data. That something turned out to be aerosols (very small particles). NASA Scientists have turned this interference into a very useful product for studying how aerosols from fires, pollution and dust impact climate. TOMS is the first instrument to allow observation of aerosols as the particles cross the land/sea boundary. This data made it is possible to track a wide range of phenomena such as desert dust storms, forest fires and biomass burning.

Dust From China to the United States - For more images and an animation click on this link



still from animation showing dust from china moving across to the U.S.

Item 16


During spring 2001, TOMS watched a huge dust storm travel halfway around the world from China to the United States. Scientists use this data to study how regional ecosystems impact air quality and climate.

California Smoke Trail - For more images and an animation click on this link



Item 17


In fall 2003, TOMS tracked smoke from the California wildfires. TOMS observed smoke travel out into the Pacific and turnaround travel across the United States. TOMS can distinguish among aerosols from fires, dust and pollution. This distinction allows scientists assess the human and natural impact on climate change.

Volcanic Ash



Mt. Pinatubo eruption shows ozone and aerosol release

Item 18

Click on image for animation.

When Mt. Pinatubo erupted on June 15, 1991, it was the largest volcanic event in nearly a century with global consequences. Global average temperatures were one degree (F) cooler for over a year due to the massive injection of dust and gases into the upper atmosphere that reflected sunlight, and stratospheric aerosols increased by over 20 times. In addition, the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere weakened for more than a year from the gases injected into the stratosphere. Fortunately, the eruption also marked one of the largest climatic events to be observed by a fleet of spacecraft, creating one of science's greatest lab experiments. TOMS in particular observed the affected ozone and the aerosols, shown here. The many thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide gas being sent into the stratosphere were converted to sulfuric acid particles that helped to reflect sunlight and cool the Earth for a year.

Continuing the TOMS Legacy

Aura Satellite Image



Aura satellite

Item 19

Hi res image

TOMS legacy lies on a new satellite called Aura, to be launched in the spring of 2004. Aura will see ozone in both the upper and lower atmosphere for the first time. Current missions examine ozone in an isolated part of the atmosphere, but Aura will track ozone and other gas transport between the lower and upper atmosphere, giving scientists a more complete three-dimensional picture of atmospheric ozone distribution. This information will help scientists understand the long-term health of the upper atmosphere. Aura's new sensors will Additionally, Aura carries instruments with much higher spatial resolution than TOMS. As a result, Aura can study air quality at a city level.

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