1National Centre for Atmospheric Science, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
2School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
3Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Air Chemistry Division, Mainz, Germany
4Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
5Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research/CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Aspendale, Australia
Abstract. Air samples collected at Cape Grim, Tasmania between 1978 and 2008 and during a series of more recent aircraft sampling programmes have been analysed to determine the atmospheric abundance and trend of octafluorocyclobutane (-C4F8 or PFC-318). c-C4F8 has an atmospheric lifetime in excess of 3000 yr and a global warming potential (GWP) of 10 300 (100 yr time horizon), making it one of the most potent greenhouse gases detected in the atmosphere to date. The abundance of c-C4F8 in the Southern Hemisphere has risen from 0.35 ppt in 1978 to 1.2 ppt in 2010, and is currently increasing at a rate of around 0.03 ppt yr−1. It is the third most abundant perfluorocarbon (PFC) in the present day atmosphere, behind CF4 (~75 ppt) and C2F6 (~4 ppt). The origin of c-C4F8 is unclear. Using a 2-D global model to derive top-down global emissions based on the Cape Grim measurements yields a recent (2007) emission rate of around 1.1 Gg yr−1 and a cumulative emission up to and including 2007 of 38.1 Gg. Emissions reported on the EDGAR emissions database for the period 1986–2005 represent less than 1 % of the top-down emissions for the same period, which suggests there is a large unaccounted for source of this compound. It is also apparent that the magnitude of this source has varied considerably over the past 30 yr, declining sharply in the late 1980s before increasing again in the mid-1990s.