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‘One of the biggest on record’: Ozone hole bigger than North America opens above Antarctica

A simulation of this year’s ozone hole opening up above Antarctica, based on data collected by the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite. (Image credit: ESA/Copernicus Sentinel data (2023)/processed by CAMS/ECMWF)

This year’s hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica is one of the biggest ever seen, satellite data shows. Experts believe the huge gap in Earth’s protective shield may have been caused by the eruption of Tonga’s underwater volcano in early 2022. 

The ozone layer is a band of Earth‘s atmosphere between 9 and 18 miles (15 and 30 kilometers) above the surface, where there is a high concentration of ozone — a type of oxygen molecule with three atoms instead of two. The ozone layer blocks out harmful levels of ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, which is necessary for various life forms, including humans, to survive. 

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