An insecticide used to fumigate termite-infested buildings is a strong greenhouse gas that lives in the atmosphere nearly 10 times longer than previously thought, UC Irvine research has found.
Sulfuryl fluoride, UCI chemists discovered, stays in the atmosphere at least 30-40 years and perhaps as long as 100 years. Prior studies estimated its atmospheric lifetime at as low as five years, grossly underestimating the global warming potential.
The fact that sulfuryl fluoride exists for decades – coupled with evidence that levels have nearly doubled in the last six years – concerns study authors Mads Sulbaek Andersen, Donald Blake and Nobel Laureate F. Sherwood Rowland, who discovered that chlorofluorocarbons in aerosol cans and other products damage the ozone layer. That finding led to a worldwide ban on CFCs.
“Sulfuryl fluoride has a long enough lifetime in the atmosphere that we cannot just close our eyes,” said Sulbaek Andersen, a postdoctoral researcher in the Rowland-Blake laboratory and lead author of the study. “The level in the atmosphere is rising fast, and it doesn’t seem to disappear very quickly.”
This study appears online Jan. 21 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Kilogram for kilogram, sulfuryl fluoride is about 4,000 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat, though much less of it exists in the atmosphere.
Its climate impact in California each year equals that of carbon dioxide emitted from about 1 million vehicles. About 60 percent of the world’s sulfuryl fluoride use occurs in California.
Sulfuryl fluoride blocks a wavelength of heat that otherwise could easily escape the Earth, the scientists said. Carbon dioxide blocks a different wavelength, trapping heat near the surface.
“The only place where the planet is able to emit heat that escapes the atmosphere is in the region that sulfuryl fluoride blocks,” said Blake, chemistry professor. “If we put something with this blocking effect in that area, then we’re in trouble – and we are putting something in there.”
The chemists worry that emissions will increase as new uses are found for sulfuryl fluoride – especially given the ban of methyl bromide, an ozone-depleting pesticide regulated under the Montreal Protocol. Sulfuryl fluoride emissions are not regulated, though officials do consider it a toxic contaminant.
The insecticide is pumped into a tent that covers a termite-infested structure. When the tent is removed, the compound escapes into the atmosphere. Sulbaek Andersen, Blake and Rowland believe a suitable replacement should be found, one with less global warming potential.
To measure sulfuryl fluoride’s atmospheric lifetime, the chemists put it inside a Pyrex chamber with compounds that are well understood in the atmosphere, such as ethane. They shined lamps on the chamber to simulate sunlight, which caused chemical reactions that eliminated the compounds from the air.
By monitoring sulfuryl fluoride changes compared with changes to the well-known compounds, they were able to estimate its atmospheric lifetime.
“This is a cautionary paper,” said Rowland, Donald Bren Research Professor of Chemistry and Earth System Science. “It tells us that we need to be thinking globally – and acting locally.”
M.D. Hurley and T.J. Wallington of Ford Motor Co.’s Systems Analytics & Environmental Sciences Department also worked on this study, which was funded in part by the Comer Foundation.
About the University of California, Irvine: The University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The top employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4.2 billion.
News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. The use of this line is available free-of-charge to radio news programs/stations who wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.
Jennifer Fitzenberger | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Earth's magnetic field > Sulfuryl fluoride > Termite insecticide > UCI > aerosol cans > atmosphere > atmospheric lifetime > carbon dioxide > chemical reaction > chlorofluorocarbons > environmental risk > fumigate termite-infested buildings > global warming > greenhouse gas > insecticide > ozone layer > termite
Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
26.06.2017 | Life Sciences
26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.06.2017 | Information Technology