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Arctic ozone layer now disappearing faster than ever

New readings from the UN show that the layer of ozone over the Arctic had its worst winter ever, with record depletion.

A WMO graphic shows the level of depletion of ozone layers above the Arctic. The blue area indicates lesser ozone presence.
A WMO graphic shows the level of depletion of ozone layers above the Arctic. The blue area indicates lesser ozone presence.
Image: World Meteorological Organisation

NEW STUDIES CONDUCTED by the UN’s meteorological agency have revealed that the ozone layer over the Arctic is disappearing at a faster rate than ever before.

The World Meteorological Organisation found that 40 per cent of the ozone over the Arctic had been destroyed by the end of March, up on the previous record of 30 per cent.

The layer of ozone – which is chemically similar to oxygen, though ozone molecules contain three atoms compared to oxygen’s two – generally helps to absorb ultraviolet rays from the sun, which have been linked to skin cancer.

The accelerated depletion of the ozone layer was caused by “the continuing presence of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere and a very cold winter in the stratosphere,” a WMO statement said.

The new findings are particularly worrying as they mark a growing destruction of the ozone layer in the northern hemisphere; most previous concerns about the ozone layer have been concerned with the Antarctic.

In the Antarctic, the phenomenon of ozone depletion has become so common as to be known as the ‘ozone hole’, but such rapid annual fluctuations in the northern hemisphere’s ozone layer are more less frequent.

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If the depleted area of the ozone layer was to shift southward, the WMO warned that more populated areas would be exposed to higher-than-usual levels of UV radiation.

Though various international agreements have seen CFC emissions fall steadily in the past few years, such gases remain present in the atmosphere for long periods after their release.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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