And it’s getting worse

And it's getting worse
Date:31 December 2008

Greenhouse gas is at least four times more prevalent in the atmosphere than previously estimated

New research indicates a powerful greenhouse gas is at least four times more prevalent in the atmosphere than previously estimated. The research, based on data from a Nasa-funded measurement network, examined nitrogen trifluoride, which is thousands of times more effective at warming the atmosphere than an equal mass of carbon dioxide.

Using new analytical techniques, Ray Weiss of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, led a team of researchers in making the first atmospheric measurements of nitrogen trifluoride. The amount of the gas in the atmosphere, which could not be detected using previous techniques, had been estimated at less than 1 200 tons in 2006. The new research shows the actual amount was 4 200 tons. In 2008, about 5 400 tons of the gas are in the atmosphere, a quantity that is increasing at a rate of about 11 per cent per year.

Here’s the scary bit. Emissions of nitrogen trifluoride were thought to be so low that the gas was not considered a significant potential contributor to global warming, and it was not covered by the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions signed by 182 countries. The gas is 17 000 times more potent as a global warming agent than a similar mass of carbon dioxide, and it survives in the atmosphere about five times longer than carbon dioxide.

It’s one of several gases used during the manufacture of liquid crystal flat-panel displays, thin-film solar cells and microcircuits.

Source: Earth Observatory News