Stay out of the sun this season

Travelers should take extra precautions this year to avoid exposure to the sun. Environment Canada scientists predict that the average ozone coverage over Canada will be six percent less than normal for the period of May through August 2000. Their prediction is based on recent measurements from the Canadian ozone stations and from satellite data that shows severe ozone depletion over the Arctic.

This thinner ozone layer is expected to increase the ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation reaching Earth by seven percent. Environment Canada officials advises us to take extra precautions to minimize skin and eye exposure to the sun this spring and summer. Over-exposure to UV-B rays can increase the risk of skin cancer and cataracts, as well as depress the immune system.

At the very least, a bad sunburn can also ruin a vacation, while the victim shivers and suffers in a darkened room and their travelling companions worry. The best solution is prevention, which includes carefully timed exposure to the sun, along with sun screens and protective clothing.

It will be awhile before we can go out in the sun again. Scientists expect that a recovery in the ozone will occur, possibly late thicentury, as the concentrations of ozone-depleting chemicals continue to decline. Varying wind patterns and temperatures, which are being affected by climate change, also contribute to year-to-year fluctuations in ozone.

In 1992, Environment Canada scientists developed a method to predict the strength of the sun`s rays, based on day-to-day changes in the ozone layer. That same year, Canada developed the UV Index and became the first country in the world to issue nation-wide daily forecasts of tomorrow`s UV.