New ozone-destroying gases on the rise

February 16, 2015
An infographic showing how VSLS deplete ozone. Credit: University of Leeds

Scientists report that chemicals that are not controlled by a United Nations treaty designed to protect the Ozone Layer are contributing to ozone depletion.

In the new study, published today in Nature Geoscience, the scientists also report the atmospheric abundance of one of these 'very short-lived substances' (VSLS) is growing rapidly.

Study lead author Dr Ryan Hossaini, from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, said: "VSLS can have both natural and industrial sources. Industrial production of VSLS is not controlled by the United Nations Montreal Protocol because historically these chemicals have contributed little to .

"But we have identified now that one of these chemicals is increasing rapidly and, if this increase is allowed to continue, it could offset some of the benefits to the Ozone Layer provided by the Montreal Protocol."

In the study, the researchers used a 3D computer model of the atmosphere to determine the impact of VSLS on and climate.

Measurements of VSLS in the atmosphere over the past two decades, provided by collaborators from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States, were also analysed. These measurements revealed a rapid increase in of dichloromethane, a man-made VSLS used in a range of industrial processes.

Study co-author Professor Martyn Chipperfield, from Leeds' School of Earth and Environment, said: "We need to continue monitoring the atmospheric abundance of these gases and determine their sources. At present, the long-term recovery of the Ozone Layer from the effects of CFCs is still on track, but the presence of increasing dichloromethane will lead to uncertainty in our future predictions of ozone and climate."

The researchers found that while the amount of ozone depletion arising from VSLS in the atmosphere today is small compared to that caused by longer-lived gases, such as CFCs, VSLS-driven ozone depletion was found to be almost four times more efficient at influencing climate.

Dr Hossaini explained: "Due to their short atmospheric lifetimes, VSLS break down and destroy ozone in the lowermost part of the stratosphere. This is important, as a molecule of ozone lost in this region has a far larger impact on climate than a molecule destroyed at higher altitudes by longer-lived gases."

The researchers also separated out natural sources of VSLS - such as seaweed in the ocean - and those released due to human activity - such as - in order to determine the relative importance of each.

At present, naturally-emitted VSLS account for around 90% of the total ozone loss caused by VSLS in the lower stratosphere. However, the contribution from man-made VSLS compounds is increasing and appears set to increase further in coming years.

Study co-author Dr Stephen Montzka from the NOAA added: "The increases observed for dichloromethane are striking and unexpected; concentrations had been decreasing slowly in the late 1990s, but since then have increased by about a factor of two at sites throughout the globe."

Dr Hossaini said: "It is uncertain what is driving this growth. However, it could be partly due to the fact that dichloromethane is used in the manufacturing process of some HFCs, the 'ozone-friendly' gases which were developed to replace CFCs. This would mean, ironically, that production of ozone-friendly chemicals is actually releasing some ozone-destroying gases into the atmosphere."

Explore further: Increase in ozone-destroying substances—but Montreal Protocol on track

More information: Efficiency of short-lived halogens at influencing climate through depletion of stratospheric ozone, Nature Geoscience , 16 February 2015: dx.doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2363

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6 comments

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SteveL
5 / 5 (3) Feb 16, 2015
Dichloromethane, or more commonly known as methylene chloride is a common replacement solvent for some of the more ozone-depleting and longer lasting chemicals that were banned. Still, if per their own study; 90% of the ozone depleting VSLS are naturally occurring, and this is just one man-made and short lived chemical out of several that account for the remaining 10%, I tend to wonder how much should be done beyond observation and monitoring.
Bongstar420
not rated yet Feb 16, 2015
I don't see how throwing DCM away is economically viable. That is an expensive solvent and is pretty easy to recover....about $100/gal retail

People recycle Butane and that stuff is comparatively cheap and not easier to recycle.
JoeBlue
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 16, 2015
Sounds like someones patent is running out soon....

Just one question, how do those chemical get up into the ozone cloud, because that is pretty high for such a heavy chemical structure to go.
Shootist
3.3 / 5 (3) Feb 16, 2015
Must be time for duPont's patents to run out.
Mike_Massen
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 17, 2015
JoeBlue asked
Just one question, how do those chemical get up into the ozone cloud, because that is pretty high for such a heavy chemical structure to go
Easy, it is first appropriate to advise that what u assume & observe is an illusion.

On a wind-free day U don't see air molecules bouncing around average > 1000Km/hr !

Please get an education in several issues, start with the simplest easy to understand:-
https://en.wikipe...n_motion

Work in with:-
https://en.wikipe...iffusion

As well as a useful property:-
https://en.wikipe...pressure

Useful to also get a grounding in essential mass & heat transport study based upon:-
https://en.wikipe...echanics

Then, if u have not been lazy & learned physics is far more complex, u wouldn't make many mindless blurts I have seen from u from time to time, it is so much smarter to actually get an education than argue from the sidelines :-)
JoeBlue
5 / 5 (1) Feb 17, 2015

Then, if u have not been lazy & learned physics is far more complex, u wouldn't make many mindless blurts I have seen from u from time to time, it is so much smarter to actually get an education than argue from the sidelines :-)


Jokes on you, I am a researcher in QIT predicting molecular flow in large systems. As well as predictive analysis of system behaviors for ordered objects. Your amateur explanation doesn't explain how a heavy molecule can reach the Ozone cloud in a significant amount to do any noticeable or measurable damage.

I can see how well educated you are by using Wikipedia and attacking me personally though.

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