Atmospheric Trends in Methylchloroform and the Global Average for the Hydroxyl Radical

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Science  13 Nov 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4829, pp. 945-950
DOI: 10.1126/science.238.4829.945


Frequent atmospheric measurements of the anthropogenic compound methylchloroform that were made between 1978 and 1985 indicate that this species is continuing to increase significantly around the world. Reaction with the major atmospheric oxidant, the hydroxyl radical (OH), is the principal sink for this species. The observed mean trends for methylchloroform are 4.8, 5.4, 6.4, and 6.9 percent per year at Aldrigole (Ireland) and Cape Meares (Oregon), Ragged Point (Barbados), Point Matatula (American Samoa), and Cape Grim (Tasmania), respectively, from July 1978 to June 1985. These measured trends, combined with knowledge of industrial emissions, were used in an optimal estimation inversion scheme to deduce a globally averaged methylchloroform atmospheric lifetime of 6.3 (+ 1.2, -0.9) years (1σ uncertainty) and a globally averaged tropospheric hydroxyl radical concentration of (7.7 ± 1.4) x 105 radicals per cubic centimeter (1σ uncertainty). These 7 years of gas chromatographic measurements, which comprise about 60,000 individual calibrated real-time air analyses, provide the most accurate estimates yet of the trends and lifetime of methylchloroform and of the global average for tropospheric hydroxyl radical levels. Accurate determination of hydroxyl radical levels is crucial to understanding global atmospheric chemical cycles and trends in the levels of trace gases such as methane.