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Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010

'Super' greenhouse gases to draw stricter monitoring

Kyodo News

The Meteorological Agency will start monitoring levels of "super" greenhouse gases, which have an enormous effect on climate change compared with carbon dioxide, at two observatories.

Gases such as sulfur hexafluoride, which is 20,000 times more harmful to global temperatures than carbon dioxide, and dinitrogen monoxide, 300 times more harmful, will be monitored at the meteorological observatory on Minamitori Island, Japan's easternmost island, and at the atmospheric environment observatory in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, agency officials said.

The average amount of sulfur hexafluoride, frequently used as an insulator in electronic devices, found in the atmosphere is relatively low at 6 to 7 parts per million, compared with 380 ppm for carbon dioxide, but the level has doubled from the 1990s, mostly due to man-made emissions.

While the National Institute for Environmental Studies has been taking samples and analyzing them four times a year on Hateruma Island in Okinawa, the agency plans to start monitoring levels once a week at the observatories on Minamitori Island and in Iwate starting in the next year.

The agency has already been measuring dinitrogen monoxide, which is produced through farming and chemical engineering activities, at the Ofunato observatory, but it plans to monitor the gas on Minamitori Island as well.

The island, 1,860 km south of Tokyo, is hardly affected by urbanization and is suitable for monitoring the atmospheric environment over a long period, according to the agency.

It requested ¥330 million in its fiscal 2011 budget for strengthening countermeasures against global warming, with officials saying it is crucial to monitor heat-trapping gases to come up with effective preventive steps.

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