How Scientists Unraveled the Mystery Behind the Return of a Banned Greenhouse Gas

James Temple | MIT Technology Review
Thursday, May 23, 2019

The apparent spike in CFC-11 production in China underscores the importance of ongoing emissions monitoring—and the limits of our current system.

Read the full story at Techology Review

"An international scientific mystery story began to unfold a year ago, when scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) unveiled a surprising finding in the journal Nature: some factories, somewhere, appeared to be producing CFC-11 again," James Temple writes for MIT Technology Review. CFCs damage the ozone layer and are potent greenhouse gases. Careful work by international researchers through atmospheric monitoring and modeling with Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) revealed that the origins of the emissions were likely located within China.

This drives home the message that monitoring networkes like AGAGE are essential for maintaining clean air and a habitable climate, but as Temple notes "it also highlights the shortcomings of the existing detection network, given its vast blank spots around the globe."

“'At the end of the day, any treaty that doesn’t have an independent verification mechanism isn’t going to be successful,' says Ronald Prinn, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT, a principal investigator at AGAGE, and a coauthor of the new study. 'But verification of something like the Paris agreement would require many more stations than we currently have.'”

Story Image: Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE)