My pale skin is no stranger to a sunburn, but since we’ve been here we’ve noticed the sun is decidedly different than back home.  It is ridiculously strong, and can make the difference of 5°C if you’re standing in the sun or shade.  And it burns pale uncovered and unprotected sun in less than 20 mins.  Seriously hot.  So  I decided to investigate a potential cause for the difference in sun strength.

Australia is the driest inhabited continent, and has the highest incidence of skin cancer, in the world. depending on your source, either 2 out of 3 or three out of four Australians over the age of 65 have or will get skin cancer.  Either way you cut it, that’s a lot!  Sure, they like their outdoor and water sports here, but increased exposure can’t be the whole of it.

Turns out, a hole is the whole of it.  The Antarctic “ozone hole” or (more scientifically correct) “ozone depletion area” is so large that, although it doesn’t come close to touching the Australian mainland, it displaces and disrupts the protective ozone layer enough to significantly alter (i.e., reduce) ozone levels over Australia in the spring and summer months.

What is the Antarctic Ozone Hole you say?  ” The Antarctic Ozone Hole refers to a severe depletion of ozone which has been observed to take place over Antarctica in springtime every year since the early 1980s. After the ozone hole has broken up, parcels of ozone depleted air mixed with mid latitude air move northwards. These parcels move over the southern part of Australia and cause a reduction in total ozone values.” Insert government health warning NOW!

Read more about ozone depletion.

In addition to drought, Australia suffers from cyclones (due to warm sea temperatures), brushfires, and floods (when it actually does rain and the water quickly saturates the dusty soil), all as a result of its heat characteristics.   But, since Melbourne is the least sunny city in Australia–with an average of 5.7 sunny hours per day–hopefully I can avoid the fate of 75% of all Australians.  Compare this Darwin, the sunniest, which receives an average of 8.5 hours of sun per day.  Of course, a little spf won’t hurt either!