According to a report by the US-based World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the seasonal hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica reached record proportions in September 1998. Covering an area of 25 million square kilometres, or about 2.5 times the area of Europe, this hole surpassed the previous record -- set in 1993 by about 3 million square kilometres. Since the mid-1980s, the appearance of the ozone hole has become an annual occurrence during the Antarctic spring months. The hole was worse this year because the stratosphere was cooler, said David Hofmann of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Without the protection of the ozone layer, humans and animals risk excessive exposure to UV-B radiation, which has been known to cause skin cancer, eye abnormalities like cataract and changes in the immune system that can make people more susceptible to cancer or infectious disease. Plants and marine life are also sensitive to UV-B radiation, which can damage marine ecosystems, reduce plant and fish yields.
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