Friday, January 22, 2010

A Hole In The Data

Here is a story I missed. The data used to ban CFCs that were supposedly making a big ozone hole in the atmosphere were wrong. Why? Bad methodology.

The following is an excerpt from article in Nature Magazine hidden behind a pay wall.

As the world marks 20 years since the introduction of the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer, Nature has learned of experimental data that threaten to shatter established theories of ozone chemistry. If the data are right, scientists will have to rethink their understanding of how ozone holes are formed and how that relates to climate change.

Markus Rex, an atmosphere scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute of Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam, Germany, did a double-take when he saw new data for the break-down rate of a crucial molecule, dichlorine peroxide (Cl2O2). The rate of photolysis (light-activated splitting) of this molecule reported by chemists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California1, was extremely low in the wavelengths available in the stratosphere - almost an order of magnitude lower than the currently accepted rate.

“This must have far-reaching consequences,” Rex says. “If the measurements are correct we can basically no longer say we understand how ozone holes come into being.” What effect the results have on projections of the speed or extent of ozone depletion remains unclear.

Other groups have yet to confirm the new photolysis rate, but the conundrum is already causing much debate and uncertainty in the ozone research community. “Our understanding of chloride chemistry has really been blown apart,” says John Crowley, an ozone researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Mainz, Germany.

“Until recently everything looked like it fitted nicely,” agrees Neil Harris, an atmosphere scientist who heads the European Ozone Research Coordinating Unit at the University of Cambridge, UK. “Now suddenly it’s like a plank has been pulled out of a bridge.”
Let me look and see if I can find out some more.

I thought this bit from 1997 was interesting.
by C.J. Carnacchio

When I told a friend that I was writing a column attacking the environmental movement, she immediately replied, "How can you be against the environment?" I am not against the environment. I am against the environmental movement: a movement rooted in a Chicken Little ideology of scare tactics, lies, pseudoscience, and a flagrant disregard for individual liberties and private property rights. Let's debunk some of theis movement's myths and examine the true roots of the Greens' ideology and agenda.
and now on to ozone.
The Hole in the Ozone Layer: Contrary to the environmentalists' claims, there is no permanent hole in the ozone layer and no ozone shortage. Ozone is constantly created and destroyed. The interaction of ultraviolet radiation with oxygen molecules is what produces ozone. In the stratosphere, 10 to 40 kilometers above the earth's surface, several tons of ozone are produced every second.

The amount of ozone present at any one time is influenced by many factors. For example, the amount of ultraviolet radiation reaching the stratosphere (and ultimately producing ozone) depends upon latitude, solar cycle, and season. Concentrations of ozone may differ drastically from one day to the next, sometimes by as much as 50 percent, depending on the weather. Ozone holes are natural reactions to these ultraviolet light variations. Ozone levels can also be affected by the amount of volcanic matter in the stratosphere. Each volcanic eruption emits roughly a thousand times the amount of ozone depleting chemicals than all the CFCs man has ever produced.

The ozone hole that appeared over Antarctica and caused all the panic is a natural and annual phenomena. The annual ozone hole was first measured in 1956-57, long before the ozone destroying CFCs were in common use. The hole appears at the end of the dark, cold Antarctic winter, lasts about three to five weeks, and then disappears. There is no overall or permanent depletion of the ozone layer.
That is interesting. A natural phenomenon is measured. It gets "worse" for a few years (possibly caused by natural variation) and the "worse" is ascribed totally to man.

CFCs were banned in 1987 by the Montreal Protocol. You will never guess what happened. We had the biggest ozone hole ever in 2006.
“From September 21 to 30, [2006], the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles,” said Paul Newman, atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Newman was joined by other scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in reporting that the ozone hole over the polar region of the Southern Hemisphere broke records for both area and depth in 2006. A little over a week after the ozone hole sustained its new record high for average area, satellites and balloon-based instruments recorded the lowest concentrations of ozone ever observed over Antarctica, making the ozone hole the deepest it had ever been.
Well obviously banning CFCs was not enough. HCFCs will have to go too. Making refrigerators a little less efficient (or smaller in cooled volume) thus leading to more food spoilage and more CO2 production in the manufacture of the refrigerators and possibly in food production as well.

And CO2 is a pollutant for climate but a fertilizer for plants. What to do? It is my opinion that raising taxes is the all purpose answer.

1 comment:

tomcpp said...

You forgot the best part : why was the ozone hole so very, very big : because it was colder than ever.

Clearly we need to heat up the poles ! It's our responsability ! Disasters will happen otherwise !

"The last line graph illustrates why the ozone hole was unusually large and long-lived in 2006. While human-produced compounds break down the ozone hole by releasing chlorine and bromine gases into the atmosphere, the temperature of the Antarctic stratosphere causes the severity of the ozone hole to vary from year to year. Colder-than-average temperatures result in larger and deeper ozone holes, while warmer temperatures lead to smaller ones. In 2006, as the graph shows, temperatures plunged well below average, hovering near or dipping below record-lows. These unusually cold temperatures increased the size of the ozone hole by 1.2 to 1.5 million square miles, according to an analysis completed by the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). If the stratospheric weather conditions had been normal, the ozone hole would be expected to reach a size of about 8.9 to 9.3 million square miles, about the surface area of North America."