Globally banned by the Montreal protocol in 1987 for their ozone-destroying properties, chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) chemicals are experiencing a comeback. In recent years, levels of CFCs have increased suddenly and mysteriously. Now, scientists are racing to determine the source of the problem.

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U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researcher Stephen Montzka discovered this unusual trend. “I have been doing this for 27 years and this is the most surprising thing I’ve ever seen,” he told the Guardian. “I was just shocked by it. We are acting as detectives of the atmosphere, trying to understand what is happening and why.”

There is global concern that this unexplained CFC revival could do serious environmental damage. “If these emissions continue unabated, they have the potential to slow down the recovery of the ozone layer,” head of UN Environment Erik Solheim told the Guardian. “It’s therefore critical that we identify the precise causes of these emissions and take the necessary action.” After investigating several explanations, researchers now suggest that the new CFC production is taking place somewhere in East Asia.

Related: Antarctic ozone layer shows “first fingerprints of healing”

The second most damaging CFC chemical, CFC-11, has most notably been on the rise. It is possible that the investigation will lead to a shutdown of the CFC production even before the exact source is determined. “I have a feeling that we will find out fairly quickly what exactly is going on and that the situation will be remedied,” Montzka said. “Somebody who was maybe doing it purposefully will realize — oh, someone is paying attention — and stop doing it.”

+ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Via The Guardian

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