The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica has expanded to near-record levels this year, covering an area almost four times the size of Australia.

Scientists from the UN said the increase was due to colder-than-usual temperatures, rather than any extra damage being done to the Earth’s protective layer.

But that could still mean extra UV radiation and the risk of more people getting sunburnt in Australia’s southern states this summer.

The hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica has been carefully monitored for over 30 years.

According to atmospheric scientist Professor David Karoly from the University of Melbourne, its size fluctuates greatly when it emerges each spring.

“Each springtime over the last now nearly 35 years, there’s been a depletion of stratospheric ozone over Antarctica primarily due to two really important factors,” he said.

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