Biggest Ozone Hole Yet
Discovered Over The Arctic
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
A large hole has opened up in the ozone layer over the Arctic, which scientists believe will severely damage the natural shield protecting the northern hemisphere from cancer-causing sunlight.
Results of the world's biggest ozone-monitoring experiment show that more than 60 per cent of the ozone layer has been lost at certain altitudes over the North Pole - a deterioration on 1997, the previous worst year. Climatic conditions needed to trigger ozone destruction by man-made pollutants were nearly perfect for much of this polar winter. "These losses are likely to affect the ozone levels over Europe during spring. This is one of the most substantial ozone losses at this altitude in the Arctic," the scientists said in a statement issued yesterday.
The ozone layer in the upper atmosphere is the key filter for damaging ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation in the Sun's rays. Without it, organisms suffer extensive DNA damage, which in humans results in a greater increase in the risk of skin cancer, eye cataracts and defects in the body's immune defences.
An Arctic ozone "hole" - actually a thinning of the layer to less than half its usual density - could easily be blown south by high-altitude winds, and appear over populated areas of North America, Europe and the northern regions of Britain.
Scientists taking part inthe ozone experiment, a joint initiative by America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), the European Ozone Research Co-ordinating Unit, based in Cambridge, and the European Union's research directorate, will pass their results to the Meteorological Office, which is responsible for issuing warnings about UV-B levels.
Although an ozone hole over the South Pole is a regular phenomenon, it is only in the past five years that scientists have begun to witness a similar event over the North Pole.


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