Scientists say the hole in the protection of the Earthon the southern hemisphere is larger than usual this year and already exceeds the size of Antarctica.
The European Union’s Copernicus atmosphere monitoring service said on Thursday that the so-called ozone hole, which appears every spring in the southern hemisphere, has grown significantly over the course of last week after an average start.
“Forecasts show that this year’s hole has become a rather bigger hole than usual,” said Vincent-Henri Peuch, who heads the EU’s satellite monitoring service.
“We envision a big enough and potentially this deep ozone hole,” he said.
Atmospheric ozone absorbs ultraviolet light from the sun. Its absence means that more of this high-energy radiation reaches Earth, where it can damage living cells.
Peuch noted that last year’s ozone hole also started off as a mundane, but then turned into one of the longest-lasting on record.
The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, led to the ban of a group of chemicals called halocarbons, accused of exacerbating the annual ozone hole.
Experts say that even if the ozone layer begins to recover, it will probably be until the 2060s for the ozone-depleting substances used in refrigerants and aerosol cans to completely disappear from the atmosphere.