A new study shows that the 2011 tsunami that struck Japan released thousands of tons of ozone-destroying chemicals and greenhouse gases into the air.
The country’s strict building codes left Japan’s homes and businesses untouched, during the enormous dangerous magnitude-9 Tohoku earthquake. However, the big magnitude earthquake gave birth to a deadly tsunami that destroyed almost 300,000 buildings in the coastal cities and villages as mentioned by the National Police Agency of Japan.
Due to the damage of insulation, refrigerators air conditioners and electrical equipment 7275 tons (6600 metric tons) of halocarbons was unleashed. Halocarbon emissions rose by 91% over typical levels in the year following the earthquake, said Takuya Saito who was the lead study author and senior researcher at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Japan.
‘It was not a single, short-term pulse,” Saito said. In the study the six halocarbons measured, was a group of chemicals that attack the earth’s protective ozone layer, which also contributes to Global warming. The halocarbons include banned gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), as well as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) which are being phased out of use. The researchers have also found a lot of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride both are greenhouse gases.
The release of the banned chemicals was 72% higher than before the earthquake which took place on March 11, 2011. “This was surprising to us, because it had been banned in Japan 15 years before the disaster,” Saito “We had almost forgotten the fact that this ozone depleting gas exists around us.”
Almost 50% of the halocarbon emissions after the earthquake were of hydrochlorofluorocarbons-22. Saito and his colleagues launched the study after noticing unusually high emissions of the halocarbon HFC-32 at Cape Ochiishi in Hokkaido, Japan after the earthquake. Since 2006, the researchers have studied atmospheric halocarbons at this site, as Saito said. From various stations in Japan air monitoring the researchers and with the use of atmospheric modeling, they were able to determine the amount of emissions caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The results were then published on 12 March in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters”.
Even though Steve Montzka a research chemist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado was not involved in the research stated that the new study showed that it is important to note down the amount of halocarbons released by catastrophic events.
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