Banned ozone-destroying chemical makes a mysterious resurgence

Banned ozone-destroying chemical makes a mysterious resurgence

"Although levels of these chemicals have been declining since the 1990s due to the Montreal Protocol, they will remain in the atmosphere for years affecting ozone levels well into the century", explained Dr Susan Stagan, a NASA scientist. "I was astounded by it, really".

While the source of the causative chemical, trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11) is yet unknown, the finding is likely to trigger a global investigation to determine exactly where it is being released from, and who is responsible for it.

Nearly no CFC-11 has been been produced since 2006 - or so we thought.

The scientists yet have not found out as to who the person is and where the person could be.

Researchers have detected new production of ozone-eating gas in eastern Asia, forbidden by an worldwide treaty.

Zaelke said he was surprised by the findings, not just because the chemical has always been banned, but also because alternatives already exist, making it hard to imagine what the market for CFC-11 today would be. That's why National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration researchers were surprised to discover it's increased in the atmosphere by 25 percent since 2012.

Today, the "hole in the ozone" over the South Pole is showing clear signs of recovery.

The scientists had to do detective work to find out the culprit behind the increase in emissions.

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However, according to Durwood Zaelke, an expert on the Montreal Protocol, the massive quantities of CFC-11 indicates that someone is acting in defiance of the ban.

An ozone depleting CFC refrigerant, thought to be virtually extinct following Montreal Protocol phase outs, has mysteriously reappeared in increasing amounts in the atmosphere. It is destroyed only in the stratosphere, some nine to 18 miles (14.5 km to 29 km) above the planet's surface, where the resulting chlorine molecules engage in a string of ozone-destroying chemical reactions.

The issue involves a gas called CFC-11, a chlorofluorocarbon that contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer. 'Three different instrument measurements systems are used by NOAA to measure CFC-11, and they all showed the same trends, ' he says. The researchers warn that continued production of the gas could delay recovery of the ozone layer.

Watson suggested that aircraft flights might be necessary to better identify the source of the emissions. Otherwise, if the emissions continue to increase, the ozone layer's recovery is expected to be delayed by decades.

"It really looks like somebody is making it new" in violation of global law, says Montzka. The chemical stays in the air for about 50 years. "That's a tough group of people".

The damage caused to the ozone layer is especially alarming since the global production of the chemical causing it is supposed to be at or near zero.

The ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas, protects animal and plant life on Earth from powerful UV rays.

Although Montzka and his colleagues could not pinpoint the exact location of the new emissions, some of their observations and models offer clues as to where they might be coming from.

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