This image made available by NASA shows a map of a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. The purple…
FILE - This NASA image shows a map of a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, Oct. 20, 2019. The purple and blue colors indicate the least amount of ozone, and the yellows and reds show the most. A far smaller hole has now opened over the Arctic.

Scientists studying data from a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite say they have observed a strong reduction in ozone concentrations over the Arctic, creating what they are calling a “mini-hole” in the ozone layer.

The ozone layer is a natural, protective layer of gas in the stratosphere that shields life from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, often associated with skin cancer and cataracts, as well as other environmental issues.

The “ozone hole” most often referenced is over Antarctica, forming each year. But observations scientists made at the German Aerospace Center in the last week indicate ozone depletion over northern polar regions as well.

The scientists refer to the Arctic depletion zone as a “mini-hole” because it has a maximum extension of less than a million square kilometers, which is tiny compared with the 20 million- to 25 million-square-kilometer hole that forms over the Antarctic.

ESA released an animation using data from its satellite showing daily ozone levels over the Arctic from March 9 to April 1. Scientists say unusual atmospheric conditions, including freezing temperatures in the stratosphere, led ozone levels to drop in the region.