Oral history of British science

Farman, Joseph (Part 15 of 17). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Atmospheric Science

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  • Recording locations

    Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge

  • Interviewees

    Farman, Joseph, 1930-2013 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 15: Comments on involvement of HB and AI stations in World Weather Watch [WWW] and Global Atmospheric Research Programme [GARP], including status of IGY and ‘Quite Sun Year’ as precursors; Antarctic stations continuing meteorological observations after IGY; value of ground stations in verifying satellite observations. [3:00] Story of receiving low spring ozone measurements over HB/AI, early 1980s, including reaction, decision to publish. Comments on unhelpful separation between theoreticians and observers, including theoretical chemists’ lack of knowledge of Antarctic stratospheric (temperatures/extent of cloud). [7:35] Comments on checking history of DS calibrations to check validity of measurements. Story of paper on ozone increase prepared using second-hand data. [10:46] Story of first seeing low ozone measurements; limited response to presentation of measurements in BAS/NERC internal review of own ‘Stratosphere Section’, November 1984; attempt by Martin Rycroft, BAS, to prevent publication of LLTOIA. [14:50] Comments on lack of pressure to publish before 1984; opinion that the results were published swiftly; presence in paper of upper air observations supporting argument that ozone loss could not be explained by atmospheric ‘dynamics’. [17:00] Comments on belief that LLTOIA could not have been published with confidence earlier; status of LLTOIA’s arguments as straightforward/clear; method in LLTOIA of presenting ozone results in relation to lowest and highest recorded levels. [19:51] Comments on reasons for publishing LLTOIA in ‘Letters to Nature’. [21:00] Comments on care taken in compilation of previous BAS Scientific Report [No.90] (1975) on ozone data. [23:38] Description of graphs, LLTOIA, page 208. [25:57] Comments on writing of LLTOIA, including role of JS; BM and Brian Thrush’s [BT] view of LLTOIA. Story of construction of 1D model of Antarctic atmosphere with BM and A Silnickas. [31:53] Comments on feelings about finding low ozone levels, probably connected to chlorine emissions; chemistry of ozone depletion. Mentions 1987 US ‘Airborne Experiment’ [AE] involving ozone and chlorine monoxide measurements over Antarctica by [NASA ER-2] aircraft. [37:32] Story of negative reaction to LLTOIA on visit to MO with BM.. Description of referees comments on LLTOIA. Story of subeditors’ intervention in LLOIA, including mistake, reaction of editor John Maddox; visit to US embassy to view NASA Nimbus 7 satellite TOMS (Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer) maps of depleted ozone over Antarctica, with BW [and AT]. Mentions book on ozone depletion, written in Berlin. Story of 1987 involvement in AE through release of ‘ozonesonde’ balloons from HB/AI, including unsuccessful attempt to secure NERC or BAS funding, ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) funding. [45:35] Mentions Washington Post [WP] press release (October 1985) following re-examination of Nimbus 7 TOMS data/production of TOMS maps, introducing concept of ‘ozone hole’ [OH]. Discussion of reasons why NASA failed to identify OH before 1985. Further comments on 1985 visit to US embassy to view TOMS maps, including response of AT, MO. [49:45] Mentions BAS/NERC’s lack of support for ozone work; effect of TOMS maps/WP article on calls upon self to comment publically/lecture. [51:05] Story of relations with Laurence McGinty, Channel 4 television through interviews concerning ozone. Comments on content of television interviews, including views on CFCs. Detailed comments on use of CFC12 in fast food industry. [55:33] Detailed comments on competing arguments of (mainly US) dynamic meteorologists, auroral experts; own response to these; role of ozone depletion in sustaining the polar vortex. Comments on distinction between air getting colder and failing to warm at previous rates. Negative comments on papers of dynamic meteorologist Mark Sherbel. [1:01:55] Further comments on response of MO scientists to LLTOIA, 1985. [1:02:57] Discussion of timing of Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer [VC] (1985) and Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer [MP] (1987, 1990). [1:04:35] Story of effect of limited VC agreements, 1985; deliberate postponement (until 1990) of MP one week before press release from AE. [1:08:14] Story of reconvening of MP, 1990, including decision to meet every two years; presentation of graph in own lecture showing effect of MP (1987) in increasing sales of CFCs. [1:10:31] Comments on lack of direct involvement in MP negotiations, including case of refused entry; submission of reports to Department of Environment [DOE]; role of BW in MP negotiations, in terms of influence on Secretary General of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) Bob Talber; doubts concerning influence of own DOE reports. [1:02:33] Story of argument with member of Foreign Office, concerning pace of change under MP; advising member of German Green Party on end to use of CFCs; leakage of CFCs from car air-conditioning. [1:16:42] Comments on relations with DOE through Stratospheric Ozone Review Group [SORG], involving AT; misunderstanding among politicians concerning very slow rate of removal of CFCs from atmosphere. Story of frustration at giving evidence to House of Commons Select Committee; positive experience at meeting on CFC113, Sweden. [81:51] Story of television interview in which JF was encouraged (and refused) to criticise Margaret Thatcher’s progress concerning ozone/CFCs; participation in MT’s ‘Save the Ozone Layer Conference’ (1989), including meeting with MT. [1:28:33] Mentions criticising MP in recent BBC blog entry. Story of effect of MP in encouraging use of HCFC22 and related carbon trading of burnt HCFC23, India and China. [1:31:03] Comments on reasons why OH/MP story is often told as an example of successful political action on an environmental issue. Story of Greenpeace conference, mid 1990s, displaying viable alternatives to use of CFCs in refrigeration. [1:34:00] Detailed comments on false claims made for MP in restoring ozone in tropical atmosphere; misrepresentation of scientific facts in debates over environmental issues, including climate change; forms of corruption in modern scientific practice, related to competition for grants and peer reviewing.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Dr Joseph Farman, Atmospheric Scientist.

  • Related transcripts

    Joseph Farman interviewed by Paul Merchant: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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