August 24, 2015


Halocarbon Emissions Rise in Japan Following 2011 Earthquake

Keywords: Chemicals University / Research institute 

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An international study group including the National Institute for Environmental Studies from Japan announced on April 6, 2015, that halocarbon emissions into the atmosphere in Japan have increased considerably since the Great East Japan Earthquake. To ascertain halocarbon emissions, the group estimated Japan's total emissions of halocarbons including chlorofluorocarbons and chlorofluorocarbon substitutes, which are potent greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances, by using high-frequency atmospheric monitoring data. The study revealed for the first time that natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis can trigger large emissions of halocarbons.

Halocarbon emissions for the one-year period after the earthquake, from March 2011 to February 2012, increased 21 to 91 percent, depending on the substance, compared to emissions in a normal year. The total increase in 2011 emissions of the six studied gases was 6.6 kilotons, which is equivalent to 1.3 kilotons of CFC-11 (an ozone-depleting substance) or 19.2 megatons of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas). CFC-11 had already been abolished nationally, but in spite of that, emissions increased by 72 percent in the target year.

The study group believes that the considerable increase in emissions was likely caused by the leakage into the atmosphere of halocarbons contained in such products as air conditioner coolants and foam insulation, as a result of building collapse and debris disposal after the earthquake.

The findings of the study were published in the online journal Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union in March 2015.