UK-Taiwan Collaboration on Transport and Deposition of Air Pollution over the South China Sea

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Environmental Sciences


Economies in South East Asia are developing rapidly leading to rapidly growing emissions of a variety of important chemicals including halocarbon compounds that can impact the ozone layer and nutrients and contaminants that can alter ocean biological processes. These emissions are carried towards the Pacific Ocean mixing with dust from the Asian deserts. The subsequent deposition of this material can impact on ocean productivity and the transport of ozone damaging chemicals southwards allows them to enter the equatorial region with rapid transfer to the stratosphere with attendant threats to stratospheric ozone. A recently developed Taiwanese sampling station offers an ideal location to study this Asian outflow as it starts its journey and hence to better understand its current and potential future impacts in the region and globally. This grant aims to develop links between a leading UK research group and colleagues in Taiwan in preparation for a major grant application for fields studies in this region.

Planned Impact

SE Asia is a region of remarkably rapid economic growth with associated rapid growth in emissions. The pattern of those emissions are also changing rapidly with developing patterns of fuel and resource use changing in different countries as they develop. As demonstrated in the proposal, these emissions are already having regional and global scale environmental impacts and we need to understand these to allow predictions of their future impacts. Such understanding requires fundamental knowledge of the nature and the outflow which can only be obtained from field measurements. Collaborations with Taiwanese partners offers access to an ideally located field station to make such measurements which can then influence model development, quantification of the impacts of the emissions and ultimately global emission control policies.
Description (1) Impact of unregulated short-lived halocarbons on stratospheric ozone

The recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer is a slow process that takes many decades and by its nature becomes slower and slower with the waning of concentrations of chlorine-bearing source gases. After a rapid initial decline in chlorine in the wake of the Montreal Protocol its atmospheric burden currently declines at a mere 0.4% per year. We have discovered that the beneficial impact of this slow decline is endangered by increasing emissions of very short-lived chlorine compounds. Generally thought to be too short-lived to reach the stratosphere, and consequently not regulated by the Montreal Protocol, we show that these chemicals are emitted in substantial quantities from East Asia and that relatively fast meteorological pathways exist that can deliver them, via the tropics, to the stratosphere.
Stratospheric ozone depletion is a well-known phenomenon and, thanks to the success of the Montreal Protocol, is widely perceived as a problem solved. We believe the key messages from our research, notably (i) the unexpected discovery of large amounts of man-made chlorinated hydrocarbons emanating from East Asia which are not currently regulated by the Montreal Protocol, and (ii) the fact that these chemicals are slowing down the decline in atmospheric chlorine abundance is of considerable interest to industry, policymakers and the wider public. At present the concentrations of these short-lived chemicals are low, in comparison to the major chlorine source gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). However if their atmospheric abundances continue to increase the eventual recovery of the ozone layer could be delayed and it is likely that pressure will mount to consider their inclusion in the list of substances controlled by the Montreal Protocol.

(2) Evidencing sources of non-compliant emissions of CFC-11

In July 2018, a paper was published that suggested unreported new production of CFC-11,an important ozone depleting substance< which was inconsistent with the Montreal Protocol agreement to completely phase out global CFC production by 2010. The Open-Ended Working Group of the Montreal Protocol requested the Scientific Advisory panel provide a report on this issue and to this end an International Symposium on the Unexpected Increase in Emissions of Ozone-Depleting CFC-11 was held in March 2019. At this symposium we presented our research from Taiwan which highlighted substantial emissions of CFC-11 from China and demonstrated that measurements of other ozone depleting substances related to CFC-11 production did not have comparable trends. The report from this symposium, citing our results, was presented at the meeting of the 41st Open-Ended Working Group in July 2019 and was a background document for the 31st Meeting of the Parties in November 2019. It was subsequently referred to in the published Decisions of this meeting under "Decision XXXI/3: Unexpected emissions of CFC-11 and institutional processes to be enhanced to strengthen the effective implementation and enforcement of the Montreal Protocol".
Exploitation Route see answer above
Sectors Chemicals,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description Our discovery of increasing atmospheric concentrations of short-lived chlorocarbons and their potential impact on stratospheric ozone were the subject of a press release by the European Geophysical Union. This lead to significant interest in the media (both public and industry). Our data provides important information for the chemical industry as well as for policy makers. For example, the role of these chemicals (known as VSLS, or very short-lived substances) is being discussed as part of the on-going inter-governmental Montreal Protocol process (VSLS are not currently controlled by the Montreal Protocol). We have also had meetings with representatives of the chemical industry who will potentially be affected should VSLS become regulated in the future.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Chemicals,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Evidencing sources of non-compliant emissions of CFC-11 to the Parties of the Montreal Protocol.
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Description NERC Standard Grant
Amount £586,957 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R001782/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2020
Description Why is Lower Stratospheric Ozone Not Recovering?
Amount £799,547 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/V011863/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2022 
End 06/2024
Description Academia Sinica 
Organisation Academia Sinica
Department Research center for environmental change
Country Taiwan, Province of China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution UK scientists made various presentations during a visit to Academia Sinica, Taiwan in March 2016. We agreed to exchange samples and data and discussed areas of common interest and potential future collaboration. A return visit will be hosted by UEA during 2017.
Collaborator Contribution Academia Sinica (AS) hosted a visit from 3 UK scientists to discuss potential research collaboration. They provided support staff and transport during the visit. AS also collected air and filter samples (for subsequent analysis in the UK) at the Cape Fuguei Atmospheric Monitoring Station.
Impact Provision of air and particulate filter samples for analysis in the UK
Start Year 2016
Description Interview for Research Fortnight 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Telephone interview with reporter from Research Fortnight magazine led to an article about developing research collaborations with overseas organisations (with Taiwan as an example). Article was published in April 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Press release about short-lived man-made chlorocarbons and stratospheric ozone 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact My recent paper on short-lived chlorinated chemicals and their potential impact on stratospheric ozone was chosen as a highlight paper by the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. This lead to a joint press release by the European Geophysical Union and the University of East Anglia and generated considerable interest in the media, including the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Geographical magazine and EOS (published by the American Geophysical Union)., October 2017. The press release has led to discussions with representatives of the chemical industry and the role of short-lived chemicals will be highlighted further in the forthcoming WMO/UNEP Assessment of Stratospheric Ozone Depletion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Workshop with policy makers 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We held a workshop at UEA in June 2016 involving representatives from the UK Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC - now BEIS), DEFRA, Nolan-Sherry Associates and the former Head of the Technical Support Unit for the Working Group 1 of the IPCC. The workshop was aimed at providing policymakers with some of our latest research findings in the field of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and for us to learn about the current priorities of the UK government and industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016