Articles | Volume 4, issue 11
Research article
14 Nov 2011
Research article |  | 14 Nov 2011

Improving measurements of SF6 for the study of atmospheric transport and emissions

B. D. Hall, G. S. Dutton, D. J. Mondeel, J. D. Nance, M. Rigby, J. H. Butler, F. L. Moore, D. F. Hurst, and J. W. Elkins

Abstract. Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) is a potent greenhouse gas and useful atmospheric tracer. Measurements of SF6 on global and regional scales are necessary to estimate emissions and to verify or examine the performance of atmospheric transport models. Typical precision for common gas chromatographic methods with electron capture detection (GC-ECD) is 1–2%. We have modified a common GC-ECD method to achieve measurement precision of 0.5% or better. Global mean SF6 measurements were used to examine changes in the growth rate of SF6 and corresponding SF6 emissions. Global emissions and mixing ratios from 2000–2008 are consistent with recently published work. More recent observations show a 10% decline in SF6 emissions in 2008–2009, which seems to coincide with a decrease in world economic output. This decline was short-lived, as the global SF6 growth rate has recently increased to near its 2007–2008 maximum value of 0.30±0.03 pmol mol−1 (ppt) yr−1 (95% C.L.).