Something unusual is happening with a now-banned chemical that eats away at Earth's protective ozone layer: Scientists say there's more of it - not less - going into the atmosphere, and they don't know where it is coming from.
As ScienceAlert reported, a large reservoir of CFC-11 is contained in foam insulation in buildings, chillers, and appliances manufactured decades ago, but none of the factors could justify the sudden spike over past few years. The startling resurgence of the chemical, reported in Nature, will likely spark an global investigation to track down the mysterious source.
He adds that the results could have "huge implications" for ozone recovery. "There's a reasonable chance we'll figure out what's happening here", he said. Together, this analysis suggested the emissions are coming from east Asia. That loss of ozone, in turn, weakens our protection from UV radiation at the Earth's surface.
The find was made after NOAA witnessed a spike in trichlorofluoromethane or CFC-11, a type of chlorofluorocarbon and the second-most abundant gas in the atmosphere contributing to the depletion of ozone layer.
One of humanity's big achievements when it comes to managing our environment has been the phasing-out of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs-the chemicals that were blasting a hole in Earth's ozone layer.
"It is not clear why any country would want to start to produce, and inadvertently release, CFC-11, when cost effective substitutes have been available for a long while", Watson continued.
Watson suggested that aircraft flights might be necessary to better identify the source of the emissions.
"It is important to note that these findings also highlight the efficacy of the Montreal Protocol, its institutions and mechanisms, with science at their core".
But if the emissions of CFC-11 continue, recovery could be delayed by about a decade, said Stephen A. Montzka, the lead author of a report detailing the findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Unreported production of CFC-11 outside of certain specific carve-out purposes in the treaty would be a "violation of global law", Weller confirmed, though he said that the Protocol is "non-punitive" and the remedy would probably involve a negotiation with the offending party, or country. "They should tell the industries that's not going to work".
The situation got even worse in the years after 2012 when the rate of CFC decline slowed by 50 percent, which could have only been possible due to an increase in CFC emissions. This, in turn, will delay the ozone layer's recovery, and in the meantime leave it more vulnerable to other threats. 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.