The Perpetually Levitating, Ozone-Destroying, Industrial CFC Molecules
Industrial chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) molecules, which we humans once universally relied upon for refrigeration, have long been officially fingered as the sole cause of the atmospheric OZONE HOLE (OH). The OH encompasses the entire footprint of Antarctica almost every September. It is asserted to be an anthropogenic open skylight, which allows life-threatening UV rays to pour through. Because of the hole’s apparently dire nature, its intricate explanations, the jargon, and all of the inherent contradictions, there would be an awful lot to unpack about this assertion. But to start, almost everyone seems to agree that ozone (O3) in the upper atmosphere provides a critical sun-block from those deadly UV(c) rays. And so, were the ozone layer to disappear, we would all be doomed, or at least forced to apply lots of sunscreen all of the time. The Montreal Protocol (which rhymes) proves that everyone believes this.
I had little interest myself in the OH and for years like most others, I simply accepted the Nobel-Prize-winning scientific prognosis. But after bumping up against the many irreproducible OH notions while I conducted hydroclimatology research, I finally felt obligated to dig into this rabbit hole. Almost immediately I found under-reported connections between ozone and atmospheric moisture. As past ozone posts here relate, I eventually arrived at the starting point for an alternative conceptual model about ozone patterns. In particular I believe that taking water as well as lightning into account might allow for a more reproducible and far less alarming description of the ozone hole and many related general ozone time series trends and patterns across the globe.
In comparing my new notions to the ones that dominate today, some of the most important topics of interest to any reader might be the current CFC causation model that CFC molecules perpetually levitate above the South Pole.
Here is an excerpt from a YouTube video, authored by a chemistry science educator . Although I disagree with much of this video, I feel that he did a great job in communicating the essentials of the orthodox CFC driven OH theory in about 5 minutes. I also like his CFC molecule rendering here and have emulated it in part in my featured animation above (for more on that animation click here).
In both images the green atoms are the chlorine atoms. The yellow ones are fluorine and the central gray atom is a carbon atom. This is a cartoon therefore of one of the dreaded CFC molecules. The little red upside-down Vs are meant to represent the ozone (O3) molecules.
Note that the CFC molecule is parked above the South Pole. The blue region below it is meant to indicate the OH. Accordingly the ozone molecules are not depicted in the OH blue zone. One take-home message from this instructional video is that CFCs hover over the South Pole, and their presence is responsible for keeping ozone there at bay. There is more to that take-home message later in this post.
It’s a funny thing about the ozone hole, that it presumably reaches its greatest extent over the South Pole in the austral winter (June or so), when largely lifeless Antarctica is not even exposed to the Sun. Accordingly I struggle to understand how the life-threatening UV rays from the Sun, ever get to the Antarctic surface in the first place during that vulnerable season. Another puzzle to me is that UV rays are attributed to CREATE ozone. So maybe I’m missing something, but how exactly do the UV rays both create ozone in entering the atmosphere and at the same time pass through the atmosphere if there is not already ozone there? This may be worth another try at expressing my question. Imagine for example an Ozone Hole. It’s not an Oxygen Hole. Accordingly, when UV light reaches the oxygen, there will be ozone. Problem solved?
So far as I know, even the numerous favored Global Circulation Models (GCMs) don’t simulate CFCs suspended perpetually over Antarctica. I do get an impression that, this entire OH enterprise teeters precariously around the polar axis on one skate. As an alternate model example from a past informal post, I explore a concept that lightning around the SAO creates a ring there of higher ozone than normal. I follow to suggest that what we really view is a ring of high ozone, which surrounds Antarctica. The air above the continent however is relatively storm and lightning free.
It shouldn’t by now be a surprise that the most pure scientific ozone literature seems full of contradictions going back decades. There may be a paper or two out there which relates exactly what I argue, but I haven’t found those yet. Some papers do suggest that much of the ozone is formed in the upper atmosphere at equatorial latitudes which then transport towards the poles. That seems plausible and compatible with my notions for the Arctic but if that were the case for the Antarctic, there would not be a hole. Other papers claim that hydrogen gas spontaneously ignites at high elevations and then converts somehow to water vapor which has an apparent connection to the energy generated from oxygen converting to ozone through a similar process . I honestly can’t begin to understand that theory, but it was peer reviewed and cited over 300 times.
As I’ve noted according to many references, solar radiation photolyzes oxygen in the upper atmosphere, constantly generating ozone. Where and when the sunlight reaches the upper atmosphere, this happens. Where and when the sunlight does not, then this doesn’t happen. How this can relate to atmospheric moisture, which also contains oxygen and which has its own, numerous reactive properties, including hydrolysis, is a set of questions that no ozone scientist appears to have ever dared to approach too closely. It seems insane to me when I consider organizations such as the Ozone and Water Vapor Research Group ESRL/GMD/OZWV. They actually measure both ozone and water vapor, every day, and yet they don’t seem to have a clear path to coupled analyses of those two variables.* I’ve done some things with that info myself but so far, no clear responses from the OH community.
To explore this composite of Antarctic OH, atmospheric circulation, photolyses, and the SEO further, I’m including a set of satellite reanalysis-based full atmospheric thickness images of the South Pole for the primary month each season. As with my previous ozone post, I’m contouring Evaporation minus Precipitation (EP). Where the colors are brightest green, the evaporation is the highest. Where the colors are the darkest blue, the precipitation is the highest. The intermediate color, which dominates throughout Antarctica reflects the well known fact that both precipitation and evaporation are very low across that continent. Notably, lightning is rare there as well.
I’ve added a dense network of white streamlines to help convey the directions of atmospheric circulation for each average monthly case. One can see the mapping seam at zero degrees longitude (the Greenwich Meridian). Many streamlines accordingly terminate there. Otherwise the end point of any streamline shown is typically its origin. I’ve also included a rough estimation of the Sunlight level. Scrolling through the images from March (the Southern Hemisphere (SH) autumn) through December (the SH summer), one can note quite a few things of possible Ozone interest.
In the SH summer and fall (December and March), obviously some sunlight reaches Antarctica. Moreover, there is circulation of the atmosphere across and between Antarctica and the SAO. In the SH winter (June), vey little sunlight reaches that continent. No ozone is produced over that footprint by the sun and given the paucity of lightning, no ozone is produced by that mechanism either. Moreover, as the twin image shows (I’ve added ambient lighting to show the streamlines), there is little cross circulation of the atmosphere between the continent and the SAO.
Finally September is of interest. This is the routine month that ozone hole scientists monitor for a maximum hole determination. As with the June month, the two closed circulation lobes (vortexes) are indicated over Antarctica, although finally some sunlight creeps back in. One can see that September is a time when indeed some ozone formation should begin to renew there, but the circulation remains “closed”. In effect, it may simply be as my mentor Bob Endlich has also suggested in part, that a dry Antarctica hidden by the Sun throughout its long winter, has no ozone because there is no circulation to transport the ozone there from somewhere else, and there is no Sunlight to generate it in place!
Since I’m considering an alternate explanation for the OH, I am obligated to compare my version to the Nobel Prize winning explanation. First and foremost, my notion doesn’t require the impossible condition that CFCs, which are among the heaviest molecules one could ever find in Earth’s atmosphere, can rise so high and remain hovering for decades in one place, over Antarctica. Feel free to visit the video at  to confirm that implicit assumption. As these images directly above reinforce, the atmosphere is ALWAYS CIRCULATING. It is simply impossible for any gas molecules, especially the heavier ones, to achieve the acrobatic conditions that the OH theory demands.
The CFCs are also posed in the Nobel theory as a type of catalyst** which never changes but facilitates the breakdown of ozone over and over again, directly over the South Pole. The jargon-heavy descriptions of these CFCs is hard to wade through but I’ve looked and done some double-takes as well. It appears that according to the OH theory, over the Antarctic winter, these industrial CFCs are believed to “bed down” or remain dormant, while hovering over the South Pole, apparently snug and comfy within a blanket of noctilucent clouds. When the Antarctic spring arrives, they are unleashed to work their ferocious magic by destroying ozone . Seriously?
Indeed this is considered very serious, because none other than the Union of Concerned Scientists have determined that:
“In addition to this global motion, strong winter polar vortices are also important to concentrating ozone at the poles. During the continuously dark polar winter, the air inside the polar vortices becomes extremely cold, a necessary condition for polar stratospheric cloud formation.
Polar stratospheric clouds create the conditions for drastic ozone destruction, providing a surface for chlorine to change into ozone-destroying form. They generally last until the sun comes up in the spring.
In the 1980s, scientists discovered that the ozone layer was thinning in the lower stratosphere, with particularly dramatic ozone loss—known as the “ozone hole”—in the Antarctic spring (September and October).
Scientists also discovered that the thinning in the ozone layer was caused by increasing concentrations of ozone-depleting chemicals – chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs (compounds with chlorine and/or fluorine attached to carbon) and to a lesser extent halons (similar compounds with bromine or iodine). These chemicals can remain in the atmosphere for decades to over a century.
At the poles, CFCs attach to ice particles in clouds. When the sun comes out again in the polar spring, the ice particles melt, releasing the ozone-depleting molecules from the ice particle surfaces.
Once released, these ozone-destroying molecules do their dirty work, breaking apart the molecular bonds in UV radiation-absorbing ozone.“
I highlighted the most interesting parts in red, but honestly the entire quote is fantastic in my view. In comparison, my conceptual model doesn’t permit this approach. I also don’t recognize anything special about CFCs. They don’t factor for many reasons. First because they epitomize the concept of a trace gas, i.e. they are a drop in the atmospheric bucket. Second, because they are known for being rather inert. How exactly does such an inert substance serve as a powerful catalyst? Especially while it somehow treads the upper atmosphere without any apparent flying mechanism. Perhaps there are good reasons but in any case, there is a much larger supply of chlorine available to serve the catalytic purpose (if that is a real thing which has been demonstrated in a laboratory for example).
I’ll continue to at least entertain an open mind that chlorine might play a role in ozone destruction, but as I just suggested, there is an ample supply of natural chlorine which happens to not be tied up in a trace and very inert CFC molecule. It’s found in sea salt. Obviously I’m referring to sodium chloride. The associated chloride ions permeate every cubic nanometer of the ocean, including the SAO. And it is very well known that sea salt is constantly lifted up into the atmosphere from everyday winds which produce sea spray as a result. The aerosols that are generated travel thousands of miles/kilometers across every continent. The same NaCL molecule is much lighter than a CFC and accordingly actually can be expected to be found higher in the atmosphere.
It’s obvious that I’m not yet familiar with the experiments which perhaps have been conducted to compare ozone destruction by CFCs, versus ozone destruction by natural and less inert chlorides, versus ozone destruction by simple moist air. Well, actually the destruction of ozone by moist air is a well known fact. Industrial ozone producers must actually work hard to keep their laboratories humidity-free because of this very concern [https://www.lenntech.com/library/ozone/decomposition/ozone-decomposition.htm].
This is only a blog
Maybe I haven’t unpacked everything yet. But I’ll take a brief break towards something related but much less serious. From the featured animation, if I replace the CFC molecule “stick model” with a more water based potentiometric approach then perhaps that might lead to productive outcomes. Every hydrologist knows the principle of hydraulic head (H). Water flows from higher H to lower, but that trajectory can be altered to some degree by obstacles. In surface water flow and groundwater flow those are captured by boulders in a stream or large impermeable zones in aquifers. Most hydrologists nonetheless see H as a continuous spectrum of possible values. That’s not unlike Boltzmann’s work on energy potential and how that is mapped in the atmosphere.
But water over almost any scale shares quantum energy concepts, because it changes state. In other words, its energy potential is subjected to sharp discontinuous drops in that process. In the global atmosphere, that state change is also reflected in a change in potential energy, or H ultimately. In the above representations of EP and the streamlines over Antarctica, one can see hints of these hydrological concepts, both the altering of trajectories by obstacles and the state changes from largely precipitating moisture to largely evaporating moisture.
Here below is a closeup of the March image. Note the divergence of streamlines crossing the Antarctic Penninsula. Also note the blues and greens which align along the landform. The evaporation rich zone in green appears to protrude along the peninsula and the streamlines detour around it. This shows the classic hydrodynamic patterns and the state changes mentioned. Not a surprise for any who use geostrophic concepts to examine and predict synoptic storm patterns. It’s simply another interesting example. I also can note that where the full atmosphere is thicker, such as over the Andes, hardly any distortion of streamlines are evident. So the distortion is not evident but the state change of water from precipitation in blue to evaporation in green across the Andes is clearly seen in any case.
Returning to the featured animation at the very top, perhaps one can work with hypothetical annular (as in annulus and thereby zonal, not as in ‘yearly’) stages of H for water instead of the CFCs. I know this is seems silly. But again, this is only a blog and no alarm is intended. I can imagine each “ball” of the featured animation stick model as a different level of hydraulic head. I can think freely and imagine the sound of giant hypothetical ice skates supporting each water H state and almost literally carving deep blue grooves into the geostrophic atmosphere. Take a closer look at the Antarctic peninsula in that featured animation and you can see the blue grooves. And given that this is only a blog, by “ice skates” I mean the giant blades are made of ice. 😀
The representation of atmospheric moisture circulating around a pole by such a simple analogy may also be possible to explore numerically. In a previous post I proposed this image below about an application of the Boltzmann Transport Equation to simulate a geostrophic global circulation like Earth’s. I think one can compare below to these geostrophic streamline data as supporting. That doesn’t make the simple hydrodynamic single layer model right, but it could point to a new start towards cheaper faster and better global climate models.
After all, the calculated flow field, adapted from a few hundred lines of code by Ian Haslam, is quite a bit simpler than typical Global Circulation Models (GCMs). This BTE example is only one suggestion towards that possibility. The main idea is to reduce the number of atmospheric layers in any such GCM model down to 1. In contrast, the GCM experts seem committed to increasing the number simulated atmospheric layers.
I suspect that many eyes have glazed over by this point. I warned that there is much to unpack. I only wish to leave the reader to consider what has been happening in the news lately regarding the OH. They say it has been shrinking. The Montreal Protocol was a success! On the other hand, perhaps the OH community knows that they must bring this massive misguided notion down to a soft landing before the challenges posed here and likely at other places reach mainstream acceptance.
This is mostly an opinion piece and likely will be edited a few times over the next week, as is my habit.
 Professor Ron B Davis linkto:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BM4wXCP3Vc
 Nikolaev, Y.A. and Fomin, P.A. 1997 The nature of noctilucent clouds and the Earth’s ozone layer. In Combustion, Explosion and Shock Waves July 1997, Volume 33, Issue 4. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02671831
 Union of Concerned Scientists USA 2008 and updated in 2017. https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/ozone-hole-and-global-warming, and as usual they don’t provide the name of any author, which is unacceptable for any scientific resource.
*The facility does claim that their research somehow relates to climate change. I have explored ozone and water vapor with them through some direct communications and I will continue to do so in order to learn more, as we both can’t be right about ozone and water vapor.
**I’m still looking for the definitive paper on this as well. I’m not finding anything so far.
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