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Emissions of banned, ozone-depleting chemical CFC-11 have climbed 25% since 2012 (washingtonpost.com)
162 points by ytNumbers 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 151 comments

As an engine mechanic, Hanlons Razor comes to mind.

We once had a "thief" in our garage who was stealing expensive welding gasses and getting away with it. Sometimes she would steal whole tanks, other times she would siphon tanks until they were almost dry. We took to naming her Shirley.

After about a month we caught the culprits. The tank theft was due to a manager in another location who was greedily stealing our gas bottles without filing the correct paperwork, to use at his location. The other thief was a gas safety relief system that measures tank temperature and pressure, and preemptively vents the contents if theres an irregularity. One of its 2 post sensors had died and the alarm for it was just being silenced by our cleaning crew.

That's the most insidious thing about theft. Your mind starts blaming the innocent people you know (friends or colleagues) and you convince yourself someone is doing it and start treating them differently.

I have to constantly remind myself that it's probably lost or I misplaced it or something.

The insurrection of the safety valves is real.

This week on Everest: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bi1lmwJDyrG/

The overall, just-worrying-factor of this aside, I think it's rather surprising that "someone, somewhere" is putting up CFC-11 in the atmosphere and somehow the only way people got a hold of this was by looking at the ozone layer. If that's indeed the case, that would be a reminder that though there's a lot of information about a lot of stuff nowadays, much of what matters to us can still be going on on completely in the dark.

EDIT: Alternatively, and more innocently, this could be due to the end of the life-cycle of several appliances in Second/Third World countries -- or maybe even First World (do you know anyone with an aging fridge?). While a lot of people might have done away with their old fridges a long while ago, those that didn't might be seeing them all fail nearly at the same time.

It costs money to monitor.

But frankly, for the amounts involved [1], there's no reason Montreal or Paris shouldn't have included monitoring and paid for it by penalties on violators.

Edit: After reading some summaries of Montreal compliance, it seems the general thinking is (a) it would be too hard to get agreement on monitoring & penalties in the initial draft & (b) self reported monitoring, in cooperation with UN agencies, tallied against general atmospheric measurements would reveal major discrepancies.

Not sure how this one slipped through the cracks.

[1] E.g. USD$10M/yr for NASA carbon monitoring research http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/05/trump-white-house-qui...

> somehow the only way people got a hold of this was by looking at the ozone layer.

This is not correct, and we can't attribute changes to ozone that precisely with the wide natural, seasonal variations.

"A U.S. observatory in Hawaii found CFC-11 mixed in with other gases that were characteristic of a source coming from somewhere in eastern Asia"

This was probably from the Earth Systems Research Laboratory, best known for its CO2 monitoring: https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/obop/mlo/

> Alternatively, and more innocently, this could be due to the end of the life-cycle of several appliances in Second/Third World countries -- or maybe even First World (do you know anyone with an aging fridge?).

I don't think this can be overstated. True or not, the common belief held by most people in the US is that older Freon based systems are better than modern systems. This is due in part to the high cost and lower efficiency of those systems when they started showing up in the early 90s. As such many people chose to hold on to their older systems and maintain them.

The last two houses I have owned each had HVAC systems dating back to the 70s and early 80s and each had slow leaks that required refilling each year. The cost to refill a system has steadily increased but it is still under $500.

Modern chillers are not compatible with older furnaces so replacing your AC unit requires replacing your entire HVAC system. Prices start at around $4000 and many homes in the United States are multi system. We were quoted $12000-18000 to replace the two systems in our home last year.

Given the cost disparity between maintaining a 40 year old system and replacing it, what do you think most people would choose?

Older Freon based systems are much less picky about system condition than systems with newer refrigerant and in practice that makes them much more reliable because you can just top them up and keep going. They're also much more easily user serviceable so anyone doing their own service just keep repairing them.

> EDIT: Alternatively, and more innocently, this could be due to the end of the life-cycle of several appliances in Second/Third World countries -- or maybe even First World (do you know anyone with an aging fridge?). While a lot of people might have done away with their old fridges a long while ago, those that didn't might be seeing them all fail nearly at the same time.

The original paper takes a stance on this.[1]

> It seems unlikely that the increased CFC-11 emissions are related to faster releases from banks or from inadvertent production. Increases in bank-related emissions are thought possible from the demolition of buildings that contain CFC products, although these emissions are expected to be small and only slowly increase over time 22 . Furthermore, an increase in CFC emissions resulting from the decommissioning of buildings is anticipated to occur initially in developed countries in which most CFC-11 was used in the 1970s. However, atmospheric measurements suggest, for example, a decline in US emissions from 2008 to 2014, which is consistent with inventories 23 (a qualitative update suggests no substantial increases in emission after 2014). If reported production values are accurate, our results would require a doubling in the fractional release rate from CFC banks over the past 15 years and a substantial increase in emissions from banks since 2012, both of which seem improbable (Fig. 2b; Extended Data Fig. 9)

> ... These considerations suggest that the increased CFC-11 emissions arise from new production not reported to UNEP’s Ozone Secretariat, which is inconsistent with the agreed phase-out of CFC production in the Montreal Protocol by 2010.

[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0106-2

Now I know I'm old, because the headline refers to CFCs by symptom than by name...

(Wikipedia article about the guy behind them, no one-trick pony: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Midgley_Jr.)

>In 1940, at the age of 51, Midgley contracted poliomyelitis, which left him severely disabled. This led him to devise an elaborate system of strings and pulleys to help others lift him from bed. This was the eventual cause of his own death when he was entangled in the ropes of this device and died of strangulation at the age of 55


Environmental historian J. R. McNeill opined that Midgley “had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history”,[19] and Bill Bryson remarked that Midgley possessed “an instinct for the regrettable that was almost uncanny”.[20]

He died as he lived: by regrettable inventions.

China? Pertinent parallels with this part of Chai Jing's censored talk "Under the Dome"[1] (worth watching the whole thing actually).

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6X2uwlQGQM&t=42m23s

Does anyone have an idea of how difficult it would be to create a sensor network to monitor for CFCs?

What would the PPM at source be? Quick googling suggests that there are sensors that can detect down to 1000PPM [1], but I'd guess you'd need something substantially lower than that.

[1] https://docs-apac.rs-online.com/webdocs/15a6/0900766b815a66d...

Around 200 parts per trillion in the atmosphere in general. https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/05/it-seems-someone-is-... At the source it might be high enough.

> also because alternatives exist, making it hard to imagine what the market for CFC-11 today would be.

Well I've heard of someone who was stockpiling and was planning to sell banned Freon. That was years ago. There is a black market for it because equipment that uses it doesn't simply work on newer approved stuff. If I randomly heard about it, chances are there are more insantces of it. And if there is demand someone probably spun up a factory to make it.

Similarly, I know of someone who was manufacturing a CFC in the US before it was banned. He sold huge stockpiles to South American buyers in advance of the treaty taking effect, making more money then than before simply due to selling such a large volume in such a short time.

It doesn't matter if alternatives exist now; someone made that huge purchase back then, they're not going to destroy all of their stock unless they're caught or afraid of being caught.

It is interesting to see how the current dwindling stockpiles of R-12 are being treated. See this ebay listing:


I'm sure that every person buying cans on ebay is either a certified technician or buying them "solely for the purpose of reselling them to an EPA certified technician".

> Well I've heard of someone who was stockpiling and was planning to sell banned Freon.

That's not a bad investment opportunity.

Freon prices in HVAC maintenance have risen dramatically in the past couple years. According to the technician who serviced my mom's system Monday, it was $100/lb last year and is $170/lb this year.

Casually I was just speaking about this with my HVAC technician yesterday and he told me that here (Italy) the raise was even steeper, something like 2.5 or 3 times over the last two-three years (cannot remember the actual prices he told me).

>There is a black market for it because equipment that uses it doesn't simply work on newer approved stuff.

There's a black market because laymen flip out if you tell them you're refilling their A/C with propane/butane and lubricants.

Aren't there documented cases of r600 explosions when used in non r600 equipment? I mean, my chest freezer uses butane, but it was built for it. My refrigeration training is limited so I am genuinely curious, I was always taught to NEVER mix refrigerants or attempt a retrofit like that, but I could be wrong/ignorant.

CFC-11 is cheaper then alternatives. If I'm a shady factory owner making cheap fridges for shady countries, who is gonna complain?

> CFC-11 is cheaper then alternatives.

Is it actually cheaper to manufacture CFC-11 over other refrigerants?

Since it's being done illegally, obviously no royalties or licensing would be involved. It's just a matter of actual cost to manufacture.

Not sure why you're downvoted. But in general that's probably the attitude.

Can't say if it is just cheaper, but it is more efficient. It has a high boiling point, so you don't need as high of a pressure. That means can design the installation with less tolerances, not as powerful of a compressor etc.

Moreover if you already have setup that works, you don't have to spend money to retrofit it.

Shady countries? Those are people and regular families...

I live in one of those "shady" countries and I wish that I was never born.

Please get help to realize your value and the opportunities you have to contribute positively to your area and the world. You can be a force for good if you choose.

This assumes you're not just trolling, but actually, it applies if you are trolling as well.

> I live in one of those "shady" countries

You keep mentioning this.

Were you born there or did you move there?

Why does that idea repulse you? We see it regularly with countries high on the corruption scale. And given what we know about the tragedy of the commons, it makes sense to make money on a global tragedy (CFCs). I (a CFC producer) can make more than the loss everyone takes.

Transparency International tries to uncover "shady" countries. You can see the results here: https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_percept...

To be honest, a good chunk of Europe and North America aren't terrible. There's room to be better. I'll let the data determine your decision.

Edit: Boy, the groupthink is strong in here. -1 for actually questioning bad practices in corrupt governments, and providing data and a tie-in to a likely phenomenon why.. And I attract trolls. Sigh.

Your logic and economic explanations are sensible. The term "shady countries" was the phrase I reacted upon, and only that. Shady government officials, businessmen, deals? Sure. Shady countries? It sounds extremely wide and viewed from a position of privilege.

It's in the context of regulating harmful CFCs, I think it's pretty clear "shady" means corrupt?

> It sounds extremely wide and viewed from a position of privilege.

Ah well. I am not the one who used the phrase. But I lived in a shady country, if I criticize it and call it corrupt and shady do I get pass of not being from position of privilege?


I concur that there's an ivory high tower that a lot of well-educated people preach from. Saying you're a third world citizen won't move people like that. Being dismissive or even antagonistic against such people just turns them off from even interacting with you on here. It feels good temporarily but it doesn't solve anything.

I encourage you to well-document what you see. That takes time, patience, and maybe a small amount of money. Put it into a website (there's plenty of demos on here that show how easy it is), put it into a blog (again, plenty of demos and resources), and link to it here on HN. There's no guarantee that it will do any good. It might not even make it to the top of the news. But it will at least allow you to show exactly where you're coming from by linking to your own personal experience.

Playing the victim is probably the worst approach to take as it benefits nobody. And the irony behind your hope for payback is that the third world people will be hit the hardest by any environmental disaster

Impact would be larger on the third world than the first. Increased sunscreen use when outside and lower crop yields.

You're probably lying about being a third-world citizen because you think the lie makes your comment more persuasive.

I don't understand how the 'payback' will be sweet for you, or anyone else.

Your optimism seems misplaced. Historically, winners thrive and losers disappear. If we're going to burn for what we're doing, it probably won't be in this world.

You idiot, this is about you too. When the glaciers dry up in the Himalayas is that going to make first or third worlders' lives worse?

I hold Pakistani nationality too but thanks for playing. My family’s at risk too.

How big a factory would you need to do this? I mean that sounds like some pretty low hanging fruit right there for the evil scientists out there, who wants to destroy human kind.

Not many people really want to destroy all human kind including themselves.

Back of the envelope calc says this is about the weight of say a dozen passenger cars or say 1 passenger car (weight) per month over a year? Doesn't sound like a major industrial operation to me and how many tons are STILL out there in old air conditioners and refrigerators that could be leaking?

You're out by a factor of 1000.

Yeah you're right - sorry about that - need to buy a much bigger slide rule :-)

China, obviously.

Welcome to the long tail of hyper-optimizing Capitalism and the tragedy of the commons. If someone, somewhere, perceives an economic advantage in producing something banned or destroying something hard to replace, they will try it. Thinking through not only the regulatory regime but enforcement protocols necessary to maintain 100% bans on some activities, we're in for a mess in the long haul.

What in particular has the production of CFC gas got to do with capitalism?

In the 1980's, the Soviet Union had an estimated growth-rate of CFC production at 18% annually (estimated because they couldn't be bothered to measure it themselves accurately) which by 1990 would've accounted for 50% of global CFC production.

Yes, the Soviets left behind a pretty awful environmental legacy. Emphasising production and growth without regards to the environmental cost is not a unique feature of capitalism.

> What in particular has the production of CFC gas got to do with capitalism?

Not of CFC in particular, but the production in general does.

There is an argument of David Graeber somewhere that socialist economies were effectively places where workers (who had benefit of full employment and government guarantees) didn't have to work very hard, so the resulting national product was lower. There was, albeit implicit, social contract saying that it's OK to work maybe 6 hours a day, because the state economy is bad anyway.

Capitalism, being more efficient in, among other things, getting people to work hard, also causes bigger strain on natural resources (actually pretty much any resource).

If people were willing to chill out more and work less, then perhaps there would be less fridges and less freons produced.

Maybe I am using capitalism in too broad a sense: I meant to express that if the use of CFC gives one competitor an advantage over another, they may go right ahead and do it, regardless of the consequences. Capitalism constantly prides itself on how great competition is, but competition actually makes this problem worse, not better.

If by "too broad a sense" you mean "incorrectly," then sure.

"An economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state."


Did you have a different definition in mind?

I have no idea how competition makes things worse. The competition to have the highest MPGs during the gas crisis has had lasting positive effect. The competition to be the first in space certainly had tremendous scientific impact.... the list goes on and on

Yet Soviets made a complete mess of environment without competition. There was no incentive for ecology, thus nobody cared.

Capitalism, if market agrees that ecology is important, can encourage competition. Soviet-style economy didn't offer a choice.

Government running the economy didn't help either. Government-worker-environmentalist won't fine government-worker-factory-worker. Even if they did, it's basically paying from one your own pocket to another.

Then someone, somewhere needs to make ozone.

And get it up to the ozone layer, because at ground level it's a pollutant which causes lung damage.

Falcon 9s?

It continues to amaze me that (some) people (appear to) believe we have a fixed quantity of ozone and once that's depleted, we're in trouble.

From [1, PDF]: "These reactions occur continually whenever solar ultraviolet radiation is present in the stratosphere."

[1] https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/csd/assessments/ozone/2010/twentyq...

Yeah but every chlorine atom up there is a nanomachine that destroys all ozone molecules it can touch, and it lasts one century in average. So, given enough, no amount of ozone generation can compensate.

It seems to me, looking at the chemical reaction whereby a chlorine atom breaks Ozone into two O2 molecules and then two O2 molecules form Ozone, that it actually increases the amount of O2 that is available for forming Ozone.

What about rockets like SpaceX etc. and volcano's erupting like in Hawaii? What effect do those have on the ozone?

I'm not sure, but they don't produce CFC-11. That is what is being measured, and its effects on the ozone are well-established.

What does that have to do with a nation violating an international accord to stop producing CFC emissions?

I was actually just curious.

My apologies!

I've got a shiny dollar that says they're in the northern hemisphere.

There seem to be some trails pointing towards SE asia. From the article:

”The scientists don’t know exactly who, or where, that person would be. A U.S. observatory in Hawaii found CFC-11 mixed in with other gases that were characteristic of a source coming from somewhere in eastern Asia, but scientists could not narrow the area down any further”

You mean along with 88% of the world's population?

If this is true and we found the place where it was being produced, could we be justified in destroying the facility by missile strike in order to save the world?

How about just having police visit? They're more likely to apprehend the owners of the facility (you know, the actual culprits) and to preserve evidence of exactly what has occurred. Also in many nations they are less likely than a "missile strike" to kill everyone present.

Sure, but what if the corruption goes very high up, and the police do nothing? Or it’s an uncooperative rogue state?

Do we just let the ozone burn?

Sometimes it's quite difficult to remind oneself that those with inexplicably martial attitudes are more likely to be deluded victims of the war media than actual employees of the military-industrial complex.

That would be a horrible idea (hopefully Trump wouldn't think it was a good idea). The accord relies on international cooperation. If we flew a missile into, say, China - setting aside all the other international implications of that - they could easily say "well screw you" and spin up 100 more factories.

Plus, it's probably some private black-market dealer, not a bad state actor.

Everybody's saying China, and, well, maybe. But what about North Korea? Despite China having a reputation for shady business practices, the Chinese government at least often gives the environment a higher priority than the US does. Also, North Korea probably has tons of outdated hardware, I would guess, and little respect for the outside world.

God help us if it is North Korea. Things are delicate enough as it is, with the peace treaty and the nuclear situation.

Heck it could be South Africa - it has a larger economy and population than NK AFAIK. (Or at least equal economy)

My father here in SA had a tank of CFC gas when he was an air conditioner repairman.

The data suggested southeast Asia

Either are possible, but China has more manufacturing that doesn't care about the consequences and has shown a history of this.

Ozone production is tied to solar activity disproportionately, and the 11 year cycle between the solar maximum and the solar minimum effect ozone measurements. We are currently at solar minimum, and we are also possibly headed into a grand solar minimum (an extended period of low solar activity).

Zaelke also does not seem to have published a paper on his findings, and all of his quotes in this article are largely political-oriented fluff. The latest thing I can find with anything that has his name on it is from 2009, and only discusses the Montreal Protocol in relation to lowering CO2 emissions.

So, the article just tells us CFC-11 detectors detected something (which may or may not be CFC-11), but cannot tell us how much, where, or how it effected climate activity during a time of natural low ozone production.

Also, this does not discuss if this was production, or just older appliances breaking down or being taken apart for recycling improperly. Without a paper, we cannot tell how they accounted for this.

> how it effected climate activity during a time of natural low ozone production.

The article I read didn't discuss anything about the effect on the climate. AFAIK the primary concern isn't about direct effects on climate, but the loss of the ozone layer lets through vastly more UV light, which has a sterilizing effect on the oceans and is extremely harmful to human health. The fact that this did not have a big economic impact (the way action on climate change could) also means that it's been less controversial to actually do something about it.

Crops don't like it much either. Same with trees.

Can someone summarize how CFCs achieve the result of depleting the ozone layer?

When I was a kid someone pointed out that CFCs were quite heavy and it was not possible to make it up to the ozone layer. Also, my kid logic considered the science experiment where the teacher showed us a basketball with a light shining through a peg-board onto. At the polls the circles were elongated, thus demonstrating how less light (therefore less radiation) hits the poles.

The fact that the hole in the ozone layer is only at the poles, and according Wikipedia [0], the ozone layer absorbs "97 to 99 percent of the Sun's medium-frequency ultraviolet light" [0]. And that I have never heard of any prevailing wind patterns [1] that would send _all_ of the CFCs in the world to one or two locations, means I have questions...

Two facts seem to make me think there's a flaw in blaming CFCs for the ozone hole.

1) It may simply be a naturally occurring phenomenon because there simply is less ultra violet radiation there. (ie, ozone may exist in part because of ultraviolet radiation, not in spite of it)

2) If CFCs are causing the hole, then shouldn't there be holes right above the factories that make the stuff? (or some similar localized affect first before a distant one?)

Another science experiment from 7th grade, our teacher sprayed a scented mist in the corner of the room. And described the process that eventually (because of entropy) the mist would disperse evenly throughout the room. Claiming a gas would collect in one spot is to claim that the scented mist would disperse and then regather, which is a similar claim to the CFCs. Sure pollution air can gather, but it's in valleys, not the sky.

Consider all the pollution from really polluted cities and factories all over the world, I've never once heard a distant affect claimed from some of these cesspools, yet, somehow CFCs pollute unlike any other gas/chemical known to man?

I don't believe in magic, so there has to be an experiment done to show how CFCs get to the south pole and fly straight up thousands of feet, and then, and only then, do they react with the ozone... something is amiss.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone_layer

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prevailing_winds

I want to point out, just for the record, why I think you are being downvoted, so that you aren't discouraged and others learn from it. Not to shame or to point fingers. A well functioning community doesn't point fingers or shout down.

It's also OK to ask questions, in some vein to what you do here, but your comment is accusatory and poorly informed. You are simply assuming everyone is wrong, based merely on superficial, self-described "kid logic". Sometimes people are wrong, so that's OK to question, but in this, you've taken it a bit far. There is a lot of well-established science on the effect of CFCs on the Ozone layer. It's pretty much cut-and-dried--much better established, even, than smoking causes cancer. Other posters have replied with actual facts, but I just wanted to post a note that would maybe contextualize the shock of getting a highly negative rated comment and maybe help make it clear to onlookers why we prefer informed discussion here.

>There is a lot of well-established science on the effect of CFCs on the Ozone layer

Yes, and at one time doctors and scientists _all_ agreed smoking was ok for you. And even doctors recommended it for some conditions.

I don't have a problem with getting negative votes, but I have started off discussions with a simple question "why is this a certain way?" and got down voted anyways, and the discussions dragged out.

This time, I figured I'd put all my logic in one lump, instead of spreading it out in the discussion.

Just been reading about Feynman recently, and how many times he was shouted down, accused, etc, just for asking questions about "well established" science.

The problem is that you are holding in one hand currently accepted mainstream scientific thought, and in the other, your "kid logic," and treating them equally.

If you want to learn more you need to learn more - which is to say that it's fine to question the current scientific literature but you better be reading the current scientific literature and not basing it on a grade school Earth Science experiment you saw when you were 7 years old.

I know very little about this realm of science, but I know enough to trust the accepted mainstream.

Feynman was shouted down at times but he was an Ivy League educated Nobel laureate physicist discussing physics. That's probably not an appropriate comparison for your HN comment.

Are you suggesting that you must be equals with Feynman before you can apply what he taught?

I'm suggesting perhaps a little less hubris and a little more actually replying to my relevant points might serve you better in life.

Feeling you have a lot in common with this Feynman guy? Maybe this will speak to you then:

'The first principle is that you must not fool yourself', etc:


Bit of a hubris comparing oneself with Feynman. And to challenge the established science you have to learn it first, no way around it.

I made statements that most claim are ignorant, which I will abide by, and mentioned that Feynman said to ask questions.

Maybe you people are the ones Feynman was criticising? He certainly wasn't hard on ignorant people looking for answers, he was hard on smart arrogant people who thought they couldn't be wrong.

Feynman had firm grasp on all aspects of physics, some of which he ended up rewriting. He wasn't just some edgy ignoramus with authority issues.

>Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are heavier than air, so how do scientists suppose that these chemicals reach the altitude of the ozone layer to adversely affect it?

>Although the CFC molecules are indeed several times heavier than air, thousands of measurements have been made from balloons, aircraft and satellites demonstrating that the CFCs are actually present in the stratosphere. The atmosphere is not stagnant. Winds mix the atmosphere to altitudes far above the top of the stratosphere much faster than molecules can settle according to their weight. Gases such as CFCs that are insoluble in water and relatively unreactive in the lower atmosphere (below about 10 kilometers) are quickly mixed and therefore reach the stratosphere regardless of their weight.

[0] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/chlorofluorocarbo...

That's the first Google result for searching "Chlorofluorocarbon heavier than air".

That article says this: "Because CFCs are so long-lived in the lower atmosphere, there is ample time and opportunity for them to become well mixed and eventually to reach the stratosphere."

They all go to one place? Consider the plastic patch in the Pacific, even there, there are currents that move everything there. I've never heard of currents in the air that push everything to the south pole, and then straight up. In fact, I'd tend to believe the air goes up at the equator, and down at the poles (in general).

"Why has an “ozone hole” appeared over Antarctica when ozone-depleting substances are present throughout the stratosphere?" [PDF]


This was an interesting read.

>chlorine and bromine reactions to produce the ozone hole in Antarctic springtime

Why isn't chlorine and bromine considered just as bad as CFCs, if they are in fact the chemicals causing the problem?

>...most of the emissions occur in the Northern Hemisphere."

>...winds and convection redistribute and mix air efficiently throughout the troposphere on the timescale of weeks to months*

The paper indicates that there's an equal amount of these gases all over, and that they _aren't_ congregating at the south pole.

Yet, go read the comments on this board, so many people that shout me down don't seem to know this. It's incredible how so many "smart" people are convinced of something, and get raging mad when questioned. Is it because they believe it without actual proof, or haven't researched it thoroughly themselves?

>Stratospheric air motions then transport these gases upward and toward the pole in both hemispheres.

One guy here claimed it was "mountains" that moved the air. Which is silly, because of all kinds of reasons, the least of which is that mountains would only cause a localized updraft, not a planet wide updraft.

I am starting to think HN is fully of "true believers" that will hunt anyone down for questioning anything at all.

There are references in this document to other sources that are not included here. And obviously to question many scientists work these days is tantamount to blasphemy regardless.

>Once formed, PSC particles fall to lower altitudes because of gravity.

Why does gravity affect one type of element but not others?

>The most common source of CFCs are refrigerants, but fire suppression systems for aircraft and aerosols also emit CFCs into the atmosphere.


How much CFCs in the air does it take to create a hole _and_ maintain that hole for decades? This is almost where every discussion from the effects of homelessness, government budgets, wars, etc... all fall apart. No one has any real numbers. It's all "guessing", yet we are "certain" enough say "don't you dare question the orthodoxy".

>"...the highly reactive chlorine gas ClO remains chemically active for a longer period, thereby increasing chemical ozone destruction."

51.4524 g/mol Chlorine Monoxide, ClO (The CFC gas from the article)

70.9056 g/mol Cl2 (mustard gas)

44.0095 g/mol Carbon Dioxide, CO2

14.006747 g/mol Nitrogen, N

18.01528 g/mol Water, H2O

Again, I am an ignoramus, but ClO looks to be quite a heavy gas. Cl2 stayed in the trenchs in WWI, carbon dioxide is heavy enough to pour like "water".

Yet the claim is that PSCs (which are made of water) "fall from gravity" yet their molar mass in a fraction of the other gases. Again, I think it's possible to have every gas everywhere. But a single gas 4 times heavier than something that "gravity" pulls from the sky, stays up in air for months wreaking havoc?

I think you will find some answers in other articles from the series (especially Q8 and Q9), all of which are available at https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/csd/assessments/ozone/2014/twentyq...

I will just point out about the gas diffusion that up to ~100km or so above ground turbulent mixing is the prevalent force. You can look at concentration of argon gas (Ar2 ~80g/mol) which also does not change in that altitude.

About the PSC particles 'falling from gravity' keep in mind these are no longer gases (the operative word is 'particles') so you want to look at their density not molecular weight. (Simplistically, one mol of any gas is 22.4 L while one mol of water/ice is ~0.018 L.)

They go to all places.

CFCs don't concentrate at the poles.

The reason they have the strongest effect there, and not locally where they're produced or globally in the stratosphere, is because the stratosphere is very dry and only in the extreme cold of a polar winter can stratospheric clouds form. The particles in these clouds catalyse the reactions that allow a each free chlorine molecule to destroy many ozone molecules.

That's also why the hole is worse in the Antarctic. It is colder and has more polar stratospheric clouds.

(thanks for posting)

... which anyone could have easily read up on, but some people are interested in stirring up trouble not about learning.

I'm glad RobertRoberts asked those questions here. Some people have answered in useful educational ways and I've learned. Taken to its logical conclusion "just Google it" more or less means comment threads and places like HN may as well not exist.

Also personally I don't see strong evidence that the questions were asked to stir up trouble and not to learn. People have quite a wide range of ways of using language and expressing themselves, and I know myself that when I'm talking to someone who probably knows more about me than a certain subject, and that my assumptions are probably on shaky ground, I'll still voice my arguments against what they're saying because they will be able to quash them. Otherwise those same arguments will probably drift back into my head later on and make me start doubting again. I've tended to find that the minds I enjoy interacting with the most have been ok with this as they want to share and test their knowledge.

He didn't ask to learn but to stirr up like in "commenting on every comment here with my contrary views"

That seems like a valid explanation for the "start" of a hole if there was a continuous stream of _only_ CFCs and chlorine.

Doesn't the ozone gas itself get blown around in the wind also? Wouldn't this mean that ozone would eventually fill the hole back up unless there was a steady stream of CFCs/chlorine to that one spot?

CFCs effectively function as a catalyzer and aren't consumed by the process, hence the hole is more of a Ozone sink. Wikipedia explains the effect of large-scale transport in the stratosphere well: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone_layer

During the polar winter, when the necessary polar stratospheric clouds can form for ozone depletion to occur, the polar vortex also strengthens which tends to isolate the polar stratosphere. During the summer, the vortex weakens, mixing occurs and the ozone depletion over the pole is reduced (the "ozone hole" is seasonal). In fact, as this occurs in the southern spring, areas of ozone-depleted stratosphere drift over inhabited lands to the north.

More CFCs also enter the polar stratosphere through this mixing, though, ready to start the cycle again next polar winter.

Remember as you read these arguments that the wide consensus of scientists is that CFCs cause ozone breakdown.

And the only reason there is any disagreement at all is because billionaires and corporations pay for disinformation. They amplify the tiny number of scientists that disagree, and fund conferences and media to push this false story. Why? Because oil and gas companies make money on climate inaction. So they spend marketing money to sow doubt. There’s no significant organic climate doubt- the push comes from oil and gas funding.

Watching “Merchants of Doubt” is a good start because oil and gas company disinformation on climate follows the same playbook as tobacco and asbestos companies used.

First, I've never heard anyone doubt the ozone layer issue, I've never read anything negative or even looked into any skeptics on this. I didn't even know they existed.

So claiming that I am influenced by some mega-corp's propaganda isn't relevant.

I just found that basic science points out flaws in this theory, and came here to bring up the issue.

Arguments are meaningless, on either side. Chemically speaking I don't doubt that CFCs can react with a whole lot of gases. But to claim that fly all over the world to one spot? And congregate there forever?

>"Although the CFC molecules are indeed several times heavier than air, thousands of measurements have been made from balloons, aircraft and satellites demonstrating that the CFCs are actually present in the stratosphere. The atmosphere is not stagnant. Winds mix the atmosphere to altitudes far above the top of the stratosphere much faster than molecules can settle according to their weight"

Still doesn't explain why the hole is one single place, and hasn't moved for decades.

Later it says this:

>"...and some heavier than air (argon, krypton), which show that they also mix upward uniformly through the stratosphere regardless of their weight, just as observed with carbon tetrafluoride."

I will repeat the interesting part: "uniformly through the stratosphere". This fits with the science I learned. Gases disperse, not collect.


Gases don't go to one place; they go everywhere including that place. Attention to the ozone problem is what leads the discussion in a direction of asking or explaining "how CFCs got to the poles." Nobody asks how CFCs get to, I dunno, 15 miles above Scranton. But the lack of asking does not at all imply that there are no CFCs above Scranton. There is extra attention paid to the poles because an ozone hole appears there.

In your spray-can story, the scent doesn't just go from the corner to your nose and concentrate there, it diffuses throughout the room. But its effect is noticed at the location of your nose and talked about because there's a human paying attention to smells at that spot. If you asked "How did the smell get to my nose?" you would get the answer, "It traveled there from the corner of the room." Which is correct, but not the whole picture. The question itself is biased to focus on your nose and exclude the rest of the room.

>...it diffuses throughout the room...

That was the lesson I was taught yes. But consider how much scent would have to be released to smell that same smell for 70 years, across the whole planet.

I've read some articles on this linked here, and I see that there are many claims about what is happening, but in one PDF linked above this statement was made.

>The role of PSC particles in converting reactive chlorine gases to ClO was not understood until after the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole in 1985. Our understanding of the chemical role of PSC particles developed from laboratory studies of their surface reactivity, computer modeling studies of polar stratospheric chemistry, and measurements that directly sampled particles and reactive chlorine gases, such as ClO, in the polar stratosphere"

I get that science has to extrapolate effects, because they simply can't sit in the sky and test the air all day long, it's not possible. But go look through history, how many times have scientists thought they understood something until later they changed their minds when more data was available.

Note the source and timing of the ozone hole discovery:

>* Joe Farman of the British Antarctic Survey discovered the Ozone Hole in 1984"


Within 1 year of discovering the "ozone hole" they had an answer that hasn't changed to this day, based on computer modeling from the 80s.

>*Total ozone was lower in these months [in 1984] compared with previous observations made as early as 1957."


We have a record of only 27 years of likely minimal data (from what I have read, no one was looking for a hole) where a difference was only discovered at the end of this data set, to which all the conclusions we have now are based. And everyone replying to me is saying this is absolutely settled science? No room for questioning this at all?

Sure, question away, but if people are supposed to agree with you, you kind of need to supply some data or evidence. Skepticism is more than just saying "nothing is really known for sure" or "people have been wrong before." That argument won't overturn the prosecution's case in a court of law for example. What they test for in court, and in science, is reasonable doubt. Give them a reason to doubt, and absolutely they should doubt. People should reconsider their opinions when presented with contrary data. The problem is that you're not presenting any data. The people you're arguing against, have presented data.

At their peak in 1989 before the Montreal Protocol went into effect (and a strangely coincidental multi-year observed trend began of rising ozone concentrations over Antarctica), CFCs were at a concentration of about 2 parts per billion. 70 years of humans releasing them worldwide could absolutely produce that, especially when you consider the long lifespan of those molecules. And they're a catalyst for the ozone breakdown reaction, not one of the reagents; so like most catalysts, they don't get used up, and like most catalysts, there is very little required in the first place.

The classroom experiment might be leading you to overestimate how much CFC output would be required. Probably because the threshold concentration required for half of people to detect a smell -- let's say of ammonia, like after cleaning something with it, or in your cat's litter box, or near a place where people have been pissing -- has to be about 5 parts per million or 2,500 times as much as the peak CFC concentration in 1989. For ethyl alcohol, that cops seem able to smell like bloodhounds when they pull you over, the odor detection threshold is about twice that, or 5,000 times the peak CFC concentration. On the other hand you can smell hydrogen sulfide at only about 20% of the CFC amount, so hey. Maybe it's not a relevant experiment? Except to illustrate the concept of diffusion, which I already addressed satisfactorily, but now your concerns have shifted like a moving target to something else.

How quickly an answer was found in 1985 has nothing to do with that answer's veracity. If a mosquito bites me in the ass, I figure it out right away; that doesn't mean there's no mosquito on my ass. How long an answer remains the accepted answer has nothing to do with its veracity either, which I think is what you're pointing out, but that also cuts both ways; its longevity doesn't falsify it, for example. If I'm right-handed for 40 years do I start to doubt my "handedness" because it didn't change often enough over the years? Because it's suspiciously consistent?? If anything the opposite happens, and it's the same in the science world: There are many professional, honest and earnest people out there making measurements and reporting the results. And if someone made a discovery that could overturn the prevailing ozone depletion theory, there is every incentive both professional and otherwise, to do so. That person only has to publish their data.

Yes, that was about how disinformation gets into public debate and into the media.

Carry on. Seems like the physics discussion above is addressing the science questions you had.

Edit to add: because of the alliance in the US between billionaires and Christians, in my experience a lot of christians hear these kind of science denial ideas as they are growing up. (Not saying this is you, just providing context for international HN readers)

>...between billionaires and Christians.

It was teachers in Oregon, decades ago when this came up there was lots of talk, but very little "discussion". (late 80s early 90s)

This was back in the day when they were calling the internet the "information super highway" and we had been sharing the anarchists cookbook on BBS for years already. The ozone hole was brand new and came and went quickly. Haven't heard anything really about it until now.

It's odd how so many assumptions about people's experience and beliefs cause such harsh reactions.

Maybe review the wacky correlation between CFC use and disuse and the ozone holes?

Anyway, note that the atmosphere isn't perfectly partitioned by mass (or do you run on Nitrogen?) and that the poles naturally tend to have less ozone for other reasons.

It's bizarre that you give more credence to your reasoning from limited facts than to the conclusions published by people trying to do real science. Here's an "earth scientist" answering your question:


Since you took the time to reply, so will I. I had no idea there was a controversy, and had never considered asking this until this morning.

There isn't a controversy.

Then why are people mad at me for asking about it? Plenty of other commenters claim I am stirring the pot, how is this possible if there is no controversy?

You say you are "asking about it" but really you demanded that people reconcile your ill-informed reasoning with the pretty well established science. That's not a controversy, it's trolling. Maybe you did it by accident, but it's trolling.

You seem to be trying to refute models of complicated atmospheric processes based on (necessarily) over-simplified high school physics.

I’m sure there much more reading material out there than just the two Wikipedia pages you linked. Try the following for some more: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone_depletion

As you provide links remember that a prominent argument used by climate-change-deniers is this heavier than air fake argument. https://www.ourcivilisation.com/ozone/king.htm

Some history here https://books.google.com/books?id=Va-BAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA61&lpg=P...

But this form of the denial disinformation is pretty old and perhaps surprising it’s being discussed today.

Ed: but aha, it looks like the Christian Coalition site has been sowing CFC doubt much more recently: http://www.cc.org/blog/suspected_ozone_loss_may_never_have_i...

As I mentioned before, I've haven't read any of their stuff. All of my questions are 30 years old, and only thought to ask this here because I didn't even know there was any controversy on this subject.

But I guess asking logical questions is frowned upon if someone else disagrees with the establishment and if you even ask the same questions is automatically guilt by association.

> But I guess asking logical questions is frowned upon if someone else disagrees with the establishment

Yes. Challenging accepted knowledge on HN is a quick way of getting downvoted to oblivion and, in some cases, shadowbanned. (I've seen a couple of examples of the latter.)

> But I guess asking logical questions is frowned upon...

I did not consider the questions to be particularly ‘logical’ at all. Naive, perhaps, but not logical.

There’s presumably 30 years of knowledge you could look up to formulate better questions.

No, nothing is amiss. There are literally decades of scientific research around this topic, and far more thought went into its conclusions than a 7th grade science experiment.

>"...far more thought went into its conclusions..."

Well I did some research, I don't really agree. The "ozone hole" was discovered in 1984 by Joe Farman, and the cause was concluded by 1985. Not of lot of time there. And how many people have the resources to independently verify this?

I am sure there's likely a computer model that could be used right? That is how it was done in 1985.

To address just the light-through-the-pegboard objection, recall that the earth's axis is tilted with respect to the ecliptic. This results in the polar regions receiving long days of sunlight during the summer: at the pole itself the sun doesn't set for six months. It's possible that even less-direct sunlight would have a more pronounced effect over such a long duration.

You are addressing a theory I have though, not established science. Even if the sun get's 24 hours of sun, you can see from many photos of this event the sun is extremely low in the sky. Just from having kids at the pool I can tell you the difference in UV amounts between even noon and 3pm is _dramatic_.

I'm just pointing out that the physical intuition you have from looking at a pegboard is incomplete. That's not the only way, either. The ozone layer is above all terrain and 99% of the atmosphere, so it receives direct unfiltered sunlight. Neither time of day nor latitude is relevant at this altitude. The only thing that blocks the sun is the rotation of the earth, which as we've observed has different effects in polar regions than in e.g. the equatorial region.

Gosh physical intuition can be misleading! It's almost as if it would be better to take actual measurements of sunlight, like many scientists have done.

Did you read the original paper linked in the Wikipedia article you cited? https://www.researchgate.net/publication/246650409_Large_Los...

Nope, none of this stuff crossed my mind for decades. Learning I should google everything before making a comment.

I would think it is beneficial to be more informed before asking questions and subsequently disputing all of the replies you get with more questions. The problem is that if you don't know enough, you often can't really ask the right questions, so by asking uninformed questions (and giving the logic behind those questions far more credit than it deserves), it's an exercise in frustration for anyone else. Comparing one's lack of understanding to Feynman's informed questioning doesn't really help either.

You seem extremely interested in questioning or learning further about this issue (great!) but I'm surprised that curiosity hasn't led you to read any of the science for yourself?

Trying to dispute established scientific conclusions without knowing or learning at least a baseline of the science involved in reaching those conclusions seems quite futile, IMHO

I also don't understand where you get the idea that there's an existing controversy (maybe I misunderstand, if so, sorry)? The very few that dispute the fact that CFCs deplete ozone are typically very conspiracy-theorist-based and unscientific- the fact that these few disagree with established science does not in any sense create a "controversy"- are you imagining one?

I didn't think there was a controversy until people started telling me there was one today.

I get it, I simply don't understand the topic well enough to discuss it. My original post was in retrospect a mistake. I don't agree with conspiracy nuts, I just thought something was odd and decided to question it.

I have read a few articles on this today, and it just raised more questions, and after learning some things, I see that some other comments are actually wrong, yet still happy to vilify me.

I understand there is a social dynamic on HN at play here, just need to learn the rules better.

Don't be discouraged! The quickest way to learn is how you've done it here. Post something egregiously wrong, and wait for us HN know-it-alls to pounce. Don't worry about the internet points; they're cheap compared to new knowledge. Of course, HN would be tedious if it were full of this sort of thread, so the downvotes are certainly appropriate. I would have cast some myself had others not already done so.

Thanks, for the first time I figured it's ok to get downvoted into oblivion and just follow through with some of the reading without concern for voicing things the way required to get upvotes.

I did learn quite a bit, but also I found that some comments were wrong on the facts they were throwing in my face. I value learning more than social points, but I do appreciate the nod.

As I read the comments here, I was idly pondering why there is no vocal ozone-depletion denial community that is actively trying to repair the unfairly tarnished reputation of CFCs - as we have with climate change. /s

Until I read the parent comment, my working theory was that CFC production was never backed by politically powerful aged billionaires and despotic states in the way that carbon production currently is. But it strikes me that the real reason is probably that the problem was identified and addressed back in the 1980s, before the internet gave a platform to everyone who wrongly believed them self to be an expert. Its useful to be reminded that things were once (for good or bad) different.

The internet is hear now, I don't even want to search out this as a conspiracy theory, I don't have the energy or the time to care.

I am fascinated by changes in science. Like how no one knew how fermentation existed, and that the word yeast, fermentation and leaven all have the same root meanings. Louis Pasteur came along and went to France to study the grapes and vines to find how yeast was produced.

And how his discoveries helped lead us out of dark age of zymotic disease theory. And how doctors at one time didn't wash their hands, yet deny today that their practice was once monstrous and bestial, yet chiropractors are the new "evil".

The thread of logic and evidence is incredibly fascinating. And so I had similar questions arise with the ozone layer. Some things didn't seem to add up, so I asked about them here.

The links you post and their sources carry plenty of evidence to support CFCs being transported to the poles, and as you mention simply because less ozone is create at the poles, the effect is observable at that point.

What's wrong with literally the first google result for cfc ozone reaction. http://www.theozonehole.com/ozonedestruction.htm

"Computer models have been used to examine the combined effect of the large group of known reactions that occur in the stratosphere."

So, no experiments demonstrating this actually happens, only computer models?

How do you propose to reproduce the earth's atmosphere at scale outside of a simulation?

Am I wrong in suspecting that you have an ulterior motive for trying to sow suspicion regarding ozone depletion even though the answers to all your questions are one search engine query away? Wikipedia's article on ozone depletion explains why the hole is where it is and provides hundreds of citations for your consideration.


No, I get it, there's something I am simply missing. I am learning that this simply is not the right forum for certain questions. I really should have googled this topic and read some articles.

Or at the very least made my original post just the first sentence and left it at that.

Here is a good stackexchange answer about the lab experiments that led to our understanding of ozone depletions: https://chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/49777/the-chlo.... Here is a text from Berkley: https://undsci.berkeley.edu/lessons/pdfs/ozone_depletion_com.... There is a myriad of observations that support the lab experiments and models.

Thanks, those were quite informative. But statements like this on basic chemical reactions doesn't help much:

>The catalytic stratospheric ozone destruction by CFC's and other compounds is almost certainly too complex to fully replicate in a laboratory with current technology.

I've read enough today to know that the stratospheric clouds, temperature, lack of light during the winter and spring months in Antarctica, etc... are all part of the formula for chlorine gases and bromine to cause the depletion of ozone. How is this so complicated it can't be replicated? This smells.

My high school chemistry class had us doing endless formulas on paper showing interactions between chemicals. They were all known and predictable.

But that's fine, I am learning to accept that I just don't understand enough chemistry or science to question these kinds of things. But I appreciate the links, though the PDF disagrees with the Stackexchange posting.

Thunder storms very quickly lift particles sometimes as high as 60,000ft, and there's other phenomena such as mountain lee waves that are mixing air in excess of 120,000ft, well into the Ozone layer.

Do thunder storms do that consistently year after year to the same location with only one type of pollutant? Cause I've never heard of any other kind of pollution pooling at the poles, why only CFCs?

Also, if mountains do it, then why aren't there ozone holes above mountains?

are you a scientist, or just a layperson using intuition to guess at why CFCs wouldn't actually damage the ozone layer?

The reason I ask, is because the way you are asking questions makes you look like a layperson using intuition to guess something that scientists already understand fairly well.

Yep, a layperson. And I got a shitstorm of comments on here because I didn't think to google anything first, and I had no idea there was any controversy on this subject at all.

Yeah, it was obvious. Your line of questioning looks a lot like random conspiracy theorists: full of basic lack of scientific rigor. Beyond just Googling facts, making intelligent conversation around complex scientific issues is hard if you don't have a foundation in scientific thinking.

as an example, you posited that CFCs are dense, and thus why would they interact with the ozone layer? That is simple intuitionist thinking - but it ignores a ton of knowledge about how particles mix and disperse in the real world.

As others have said earlier in the thread – CFC's doesn't pool at the poles. The processes that creates ozone holes require certain conditions (extreme cold and darkness) that only occur by the poles. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone_depletion)

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