Hydroclimatology and Solar Explorations

Art, Climate & Weather Representations, Ozone in the Atmosphere

CFCs and Chlorine are not Ozone Destroying Catalysts

Man-made refrigerants such as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), along with their Chlorine molecules locked within, have been deeply associated with a presumed catalysis of Ozone Hole destruction, which we are assured would have threatened all of humanity if not for the Montreal Protocol.

But CFCs can’t catalyze a thing.  One must read between the lines of any Ozone CFC promotion to understand that this is so.  In that reading you might recognize that the active feature has migrated over to Chlorine, as if that were a catalyst.

But Chlorine is not a catalyst either.

Don’t take my word for it.  Search online or at your library if you must.  The only nominal examples you are likely to find for any catalytic action by Chlorine are those claimed for Ozone destruction, high in the atmosphere, and far away over remote Antarctica.

In other words, the only apparent supporting evidence for the claims that Chlorine is a catalyst for Ozone destruction are those claims which state that Chlorine is a catalyst for Ozone destruction.  I can’t speak to how other scientists view their practices, but in my view, you can’t use your assertion as the evidence to support your assertion.

This is only a blog, so maybe I’m wrong that Chlorine is not a catalyst.  Loosely speaking, I prefer to think of Water as the only catalyst that counts.  Without water the remaining reactions appear from a geostrophic full atmosphere perspective to be dull and slow otherwise.  For example, consider the featured image which identifies concentrations of Water and Ozone in the atmosphere, with height, over a single research aircraft sampling trajectory one day at the Rocky Mountains.  As the Water concentration decreases, the Ozone increases.  As the Water concentration increases, the Ozone concentration decreases.  Thousands of additional flights are recorded to confirm.   How many seconds within any of these cases did it take for the Ozone to disappear in water?

There are many chemistry practitioners who might have the capacity to challenge the claims of this post.  By all means I’m interested to know about published industrial or other natural applications of Chlorine as a catalyst, as well as something more about its circulation pathways.  Speaking as one who has published in this circulation topic, I think that the idea that the tropopause is some sort of continuous firewall across the globe’s atmosphere, which excludes all of the natural Chlorine and only allows CFCs through, is challenged by among other things, the very lack of a continuous tropopause and by working through geostrophic principles of full thickness integration across any synoptic scale. [1]

Likely no scientist will challenge this catalyst post.  In that case I might have to challenge it myself, especially of course if anything new comes to light. In any event, as any good scientist knows, one must always challenge.  If only ozone scientists would get that memo.  One new thing concerns my recent revisit of NASA and NOAA ozone hole content.  First it’s interesting to understand that they believe that CFCs are shielded from photolytically-destructive UV rays until they reach the ozone layer, slightly above the tropopause.

That’s already challenged as usual by the overall weight of the heavy CFC molecules and the actual groundwater sinks for those molecules.  Perhaps if it were always windy everywhere, then the CFCs could never sink to the ground and to the groundwater below that.  Please keep in mind the simple fact that whenever the wind stops blowing, any remaining lofted CFCs will immediately begin sinking.  Sinking is fast, and there is not far to go before they are grounded.  Once they enter the soil, there is no return to the atmosphere, likely ever.

It’s even more strange to learn that the Ozone Layer has been protecting these CFCs from photolysis for decades in the troposphere before they suddenly spin out past the tropopause to finally be exposed to UV light and then to release the stratosphere’s only currently recognized Chlorine atoms.

It’s all most intricate and unbelievable to me, but by their own promotions, the Ozone Layer is PATCHY.  That layer is not only discontinuous, the patches always change, like clouds, and they move.  Accordingly the CFC molecules which somehow remain in the troposphere for decades, must have been exposed to UV energy frequently.   How they managed to survive and then pass through the tropopause will no doubt require further study, even as NOAA and NASA elites assure us that the problem has been solved by the Montreal Protocol.   A simple review of Ozone Hole in the current media can point to thousands of examples of these assurances.

Also I can now revisit the notion that the Chlorines of the appropriate pedigree catalyze the destruction of Ozone from the vantage point of a high cirrus cloud.  There are a few challenges from the broad view of a practicing planetary nanohydrologist:  For example, those nominally icy clouds will always have liquid water in places associated with the surface energies [2].  Accordingly the non-frozen phase of water within the cloud is expected to both dissolve Chlorine and Ozone.  Consider also that most common catalyst systems are fabricated test beds of the catalyst, set up for gases or liquids to flow across them.*  They interact through impressive surface chemistry reactions, and the altered fluids pass on, leaving the test bed intact.. a heterogeneous catalyst.  I think the clouds best fit this test bed – as catalyst analogy, not the Chlorines.  Even in their elaborate conception of noctilucent cloud based, exclusively-CFC-originated, Chlorine-facilitated ozone destruction, the posers of CFC causation for Ozone patterns cannot escape the critical role of Water.

Do high cirrus clouds simply incubate ozone-killing catalysts, or are THE CLOUDS the catalyst?

Chlorine as a catalyst might be an oxymoron.  On the other hand there is a real thing called an oxychloron.. well an oxychlorine.  And these are ingredients that we all might agree, play important roles in the continued solar-forced flaring of ozone into our most natural Water-catalyzed marine-aerosol infused geostrophic atmosphere.

About the featured image: the consistently-observed inverse correlation between Ozone and humidity, or Water.

About the final image:  A painting including high cirrus clouds.  Wallace.



[1] Wallace, M.G., 2019, Application of lagged correlations between solar cycles and hydrosphere components towards sub-decadal forecasts of streamflows in the Western US.   Hydrological Sciences Journal, Oxford UK  Volume 64 Issue 2.   doi: 10.1080/02626667.2019.

[2] WettlauferJS. 2019 Surface phase transitions in ice: from fundamental interactions to applications. Phil.Trans.R. Soc. A377:20180261.

*an example is the platinum mesh of a catalytic converter.

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