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Rare ozone hole opens over Arctic — and it’s big

Nature/Alexandra Witze
Cold temperatures and a strong polar vortex allowed chemicals to gnaw away at the protective ozone layer in the north

A vast ozone hole — probably the biggest on record in the north — has opened in the skies above the Arctic. It rivals the better-known Antarctic ozone hole that forms in the southern hemisphere each year.

Record-low ozone levels currently stretch across much of the central Arctic, covering an area about three times the size of Greenland (see ‘Arctic opening’). The hole doesn’t threaten people’s health, and will probably break apart in the coming weeks. But it is an extraordinary atmospheric phenomenon that will go down in the record books.

“From my point of view, this is the first time you can speak about a real ozone hole in the Arctic,” says Martin Dameris, an atmospheric scientist at the German Aerospace Center in Oberpfaffenhofen.

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