NOAA Boulder Research Finds Resurgence In Banned Ozone-Depleting Chemical

Aerosol

A US observatory in Hawaii found CFC-11 mixed in with other gases that were characteristic of a source coming from somewhere in eastern Asia, but scientists could not narrow the area down any further.

These could hamper the recovery of the ozone hole and worsen climate change.

The slowdown in reduction of CFC-11 also has implications for the fight against climate change. Though concentrations of CFC11 in the atmosphere are still declining, they're declining more slowly than they would if there were no new sources, Montzka said.

The USA ceased production in 1996 and other countries agreed to phase out CFC production by 2010.

As production stalled, existing reservoirs of the chemicals were expected to gradually escape to the atmosphere and diminish.

Banned Ozone-Harming Gas Creeps Back, Suggesting a Mystery Source

And so successful has Montreal been that scientists have spoken of a recovery being under way.

That has led scientists to predict that by mid- to late-century, the abundance of ozone-depleting gases would to fall to levels last seen before the Antarctic ozone hole began to appear in the early 1980s.

The new study published on Wednesday shows that, as expected, the rate of decline of concentrations of CFC-11 observed was constant between 2002 and 2012.

While the new analysis can't definitively explain why emissions of CFC11 are increasing, but Montzka suspects covert production. However, since 2012, this decline has slowed by around 50%.

Paul Young, at Lancaster University, UK, said: "The Montreal Protocol has been rightly hailed as our most successful worldwide environmental treaty, so the suggestion that there are possibly continued, unreported emissions of CFCs is certainly troubling and needs further investigation".

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In 2013, plumes of air containing elevated levels of CFC-11 were detected at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. Some scientists speculate that the substance is likely being produced in East Asia.

"We're raising the flag to say, look, this is not what we hope happens for the ozone layer", said Dr. Montzka, a research chemist at the Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"They're going to find the culprits", Zaelke said. "We don't know why they might be doing that and if it is being made for some specific objective, or inadvertently as a side product of some other chemical process".

"The newer substances that are out there, the replacements for CFC-11, might be more hard or expensive for some countries to produce or get at".

And it seems to be new production on a huge scale.

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The UNEP said that is was "critical that we take stock of this science, identify the causes of these emissions and take necessary action".

They point to the fact that since the production of these chemicals was ended over eight years ago, any industry that was involved in this work would have transitioned to other substances. However, that decrease is significantly slower than it would be without the new CFC emissions.

The chemical is also a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

If the source of these new emissions can be identified and controlled soon, the damage to the ozone layer should be minor, Montzka said.

With the worldwide community agreeing further, significant phase-outs in Kigali, in 2016, the researchers say early-warning, air-monitoring systems will be an essential part of the future policing of emissions.

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