The European Union's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service said Thursday that the hole in the ozone layer that appears every year during the Southern Hemisphere spring is especially large.

The report says that the size of the hole already surpasses the parameter of Antarctica and is still growing. The hole is similar to last year’s hole, which was amongst the largest and longest remaining since the records started in 1979. It took until around Christmas for the ozone hole to fully close again in 2020.

“This year, the ozone hole developed as expected at the start of the season. It seems pretty similar to last year's, which also wasn't really exceptional until early September, but then turned into one of the largest and longest-lasting ozone holes in our data record later in the season,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, Director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, said in a release.

“Now our forecasts show that this year's hole has evolved into a rather larger than usual one. The vortex is quite stable and the stratospheric temperatures are even lower than last year, so it may continue to grow slightly over the next two or three weeks.”

The ozone is needed as a protection layer for Earth because it absorbs ultraviolet radiation. A depleted layer means more radiation makes its way to Earth.

Certain chemicals, pollution, greenhouse gases, and multiple other contaminants have harmed the ozone layer over the past few decades, recreating the hole and causing it to get worse. 

The ozone layer does have the potential to recover. Experts say it will take until about the 2060s for the ozone-depleting substances to completely be filtered out of the atmosphere.

“The 2021 ozone hole is now among the 25% largest in our records since 1979, but the process is still underway. We will keep monitoring its development in the next weeks. A large or small ozone hole in one year does not necessarily mean that the overall recovery process is not going ahead as expected, but it can signal that special attention needs to be paid and research can be directed to study the reasons behind a specific ozone hole event,” said Peuch.