In July, a feature in Nature Reports Climate Change
first reported concerns that Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), a greenhouse gas at least 12,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide, could be substantially more prevalent in the atmosphere than previously estimated.
Now the first actual measurements of the gas, conducted at two clean-air sites in California and Tasmania, confirm that University of California chemist Michael Prather’s initial suspicion was right: The gas, widely used as an etchant in the plasma screen production process, does escape in quite significant amounts to the atmosphere, scientists with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have found.
Over the last 30 years, the atmospheric concentration of NF3 has increased more than 20-fold, they write in a paper in press at Geophysical Research Letters (subscription). The overall amount of the gas in the atmosphere, currently some 5,400 tonnes, is rising by 11% per year.
In light of these new measurements, the idea that the global warming potential of atmospheric NF3 is negligible must surely be revised. The Nature news story here has more details and explains what experts say should be done about the problem.