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Ozone Hole Over Antarctic Equals 2000 Record - UN

Ozone Hole Over Antarctic Equals 2000 Record - UN
GENEVA - The ozone hole over the Antarctic has equalled the 2000 record, covering an area larger than North America, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said last week. Over the past two weeks, the hole has widened from 9.63 million sq miles to 10.78 million sq miles, but it is \"too early to predict with certainty\" whether it has peaked, the United Nations body said. The maximum is normally attained in mid-September. \"(It) is larger than the combined areas of Canada, Mexico and the United States and contrasts the exceptionally small ozone hole last year,\" the WMO said. Ozone is a protective layer in the atmosphere that shields the earth from the sun\'s rays, especially ultraviolet-B radiation that can cause skin cancer, cataracts and harm marine life. The hole extends as far as the tip of South America where the southern Argentine city of Ushuaia has registered ozone values some 50 percent below the 1964-76 norm, the WMO said. Last year, the hole peaked at 20 million sq km because of unusually warm weather over the South Pole. Scientists first sounded the alarm in 1985, triggering an international campaign to reduce the world\'s use of certain man-made chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were blamed for destroying the ozone layer. According to the United Nations Environment Program, consumption of CFCs, commonly used as propellants in spray cans, dropped from 1.1 million tonnes in 1986 to 110,000 tonnes in 2001. The WMO said that the wider hole in 2003 did not point to any increase in the amount of ozone-depleting chemicals in the atmosphere, but rather was a reflection of changes in weather conditions over the Antarctic. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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