There's been a mysterious rise in ozone-destroying emissions

Some posters drawn by school children in India urging action to repair the ozone layer

Some posters drawn by school children in India urging action to repair the ozone layer

Although the source of the rise has not yet been determined, the study did state that "the increase in emission of CFC-11 appears unrelated to past production" which would suggest "unreported new production".

A sharp and mysterious rise in emissions of a key ozone-destroying chemical has been detected by scientists, despite its production being banned around the world. 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. Afterward, however, the decline actually started to slow down: between 2015 and 2017, CFC-11 levels in the atmosphere dropped by only 1.0 ppt per year.

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

That said, if the prompt action isn't taken as soon as possible, these emissions can prove to be a major roadblock and delay the recovery of ozone. "Nevertheless, scientists and policy makes will want to understand the cause of these unexpected CFC-11 emissions". That, in turn, would worsen climate change.

"It is a worrying end result", mentioned Joanna Haigh, Professor of Atmospheric Physics on the Grantham Institute, Imperial School London, who was not concerned within the report.

Widely used in 1970s and 1980s as propellant in aerosol sprays, as well as in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, CFCs do not exist in nature.

The production of CFC-11 amounts to a violation of worldwide law, but perhaps more importantly it represents a blow to the decades-long work scientists have been conducting to preserve the ozone layer, which shields us from the sun's ultraviolet radiation. Scientists had determined that CFC-11 could remain in the atmosphere for up to 50 years once it's released, causing chemical reactions that eat away at the ozone layer, and contributing to the warming of the Earth.

The researchers said that the less rapid decline of CFC-11 could prevent ozone from returning to normal levels, or at least as quickly as hoped.

Other scientists not involved in the study signalled its importance. "There's a reasonable chance we'll figure out what's happening here", he said. However, measurements listed in the study suggest it's being emitted somewhere around China, Mongolia and the Koreas. "It is critical that we take stock of this science, identify the causes of these emissions and take necessary action", he said. Ozone holes over Antarctica, expected to last longer than last years record 11.6 million square miles (30 million square km) will likely spread more harmful ultra-violet radiation over the Southern Hemisphere.

CFCs and other molecules have mainly eroded ozone in the upper stratosphere, and over the poles. The CFC-11 chemical dropped steadily in the atmosphere by near about 2.1 parts-per-trillion per year in between the year 2002 and the year 2012.

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