Atmospheric Halocarbons, Hydrocarbons, and Sulfur Hexafluoride: Global Distributions, Sources, and Sinks

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Science  02 Mar 1979:
Vol. 203, Issue 4383, pp. 899-903
DOI: 10.1126/science.203.4383.899


The global distribution of fluorocarbon-12 and fluorocarbon-11 is used to establish a relatively fast interhemispheric exchange rate of 1 to 1.2 years. Atmospheric residence times of 65 to 70 years for fluorocarbon-12 and 40 to 45 years for fluorocarbon-l1 best fit the observational data. These residence times rule out the possibility of any significant missing sinks that may prevent these fluorocarbons from entering the stratosphere. Atmospheric measurements of methyl chloroform support an 8-to 10-year residence time and suggest global average hydroxyl radical (HO) concentrations of 3 x 105 to 4 x 105 molecules per cubic centimeter. These are a factor of 5 lower than predicted by models. Additionally, methyl chloroform global distribution supports Southern Hemispheric HO levels that are a factor of 1.5 or more larger than the Northern Hemispheric values. The long residence time and the rapid growth of methyl chloroform cause it to be a potentially significant depleter of stratospheric ozone. The oceanic sink for atmospheric carbon tetrachloride is about half as important as the stratospheric sink. A major source of methyl chloride (3 x 1012grams per year), sufficient to account for nearly all the atmospheric methyl chloride, has been identified in the ocean.