Scientists 'Astounded' by Mysterious Rise in Banned Chemical

Scientists 'Astounded' by Mysterious Rise in Banned Chemical

Emissions of one of the chemicals most responsible for the Antarctic ozone hole are on the rise, despite an worldwide treaty that required an end to its production in 2010, a new study by researchers at NOAA and their colleagues shows. Scientists have detected a 25% uptick in emissions of CFC-11-an ozone-destroying chemical-since 2012. CFC-11, used as a refrigerant, is considered the second most damaging of the chemicals phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, The US stopped making it in 1996 and worldwide production had reached nearly zero by 2007. The discovery is likely to encourage the global investigation of a mysterious source.

Measurements at remote sites - including the government-run Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii - of the chemical, known as CFC-11, point to East Asia as the source or renewed production. Trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11) is the second-most abundant ozone-depleting gas in the atmosphere and a member of the family of chemicals most responsible for the giant hole in the ozone layer that forms over Antarctica each September.

They considered a range of alternative explanations for the growth, such as a change in atmospheric patterns that gradually remove CFC gases in the stratosphere, an increase in the rate of demolition of buildings containing old residues of CFC-11, or accidental production.

A simple model analysis of our findings suggests an increase in CFC-11 emissions ... despite reported production being close to zero4 since 2006 ... It is thought that about 13,000 tonnes a year has been released since 2013.

He adds that the results could have "huge implications" for ozone recovery.

The goal of the study was not to point fingers; but figuring out where the emissions are coming from is a crucial environmental question.

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Pictured, the Antarctic ozone hole, located above the South Pole.

"This evidence strongly suggests increased CFC-11 emissions from eastern Asia after 2012".

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were banned from production and use across the globe in 1987 after they were found to directly impact the protective ozone layer making a large "ozone hole".

"We're raising a flag to the global community to say, 'This is what's going on, and it is taking us away from timely recovery of the ozone layer, '" said Montzka.

The UNEP said that is was "critical that we take stock of this science, identify the causes of these emissions and take necessary action". As expected, CFC-11 levels have been declining since the chemical was banned and production phased out. "That's a tough group of people". However, since 2012, this decline has slowed by around 50%.

Despite the increase in CFC-11 emissions, its concentration in the atmosphere continues to decrease, but only about half as fast as the decline observed a few years ago, and at a substantially slower rate than expected. 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. This, in turn, will delay the ozone layer's recovery, and in the meantime leave it more vulnerable to other threats.

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