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Interview of Joseph Farman by Steve Norton on 1999 October 12,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
In this interview Joseph Farman discusses topics such as: the British Antarctic Survey and the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole; Brian Gardiner; Jonathan Shanklin; ozone layer depletion; stratospheric ozone; chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs); creating 2D and 3D models; Susan Solomon; working in the aerospace industry on guided missiles; World Meteorological Organization; F. S. Rowland; Mario Molina; Imperial Chemical Industry (ICI); Total Ozone Monitoring Spectrometer (TOMS); Adrian Tuck; Shigeru Chubachi; International Geophysical Year (IGY); Al Flagg; National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
My name is Steve Norton, and I’m interviewing Joe Farman, formerly of the British Antarctic Survey, about the facts relating to the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole. I actually had some questions about some other things we didn’t get to yesterday, about some things that were recorded in other published accounts. One is in Sharon Rhone’s book Fifteen Year Evolution of a Sudden Crisis, where she actually quotes you a number of places. But we’ll get to those in a minute. But one of the things she says is that when the first low values that you noted were recorded in 1982 you immediately suspected that there was an instrument problem. And a couple of questions pertaining to this is did John Shanklin or Brian Gardner mention to you at all in 1982 that there were low values?
Oh gosh. This is where the memory is a bit [???] over time. Dear oh dear. I mean, I guess it was my habit, though I was getting divorced from the everyday sight of things, to like to be presented once a year with an overview of the daily plans. Monthly meetings didn’t interest me very much because I had firmly convinced myself that in the spring months you really had to look at the upper air maps and you had to see where the vortex was, and a monthly meeting could go up and down for a trivial variation of a 100 kilometers in the boundaries of the vortex. So yes, then I guess I was aware that things were lower than normal. That I jumped, I honestly can’t remember.
But you don’t know whether it was ‘82 or earlier?
No, I don’t have any idea at this stage. We need to — I mean, Jonathon will tell you that because he was the one who kept saying things. Brian for some reason was almost, how can I say, disinterested in this at this stage. I mean his opinion was very much that we’d homogenized that early series and that you couldn’t really say anything very worthwhile until you’d homogenized the next one, as it were. You know, why don’t we wait and analyze it properly and then to say something. I mean I guess I couldn’t have been very disturbed in ‘82. When did I take on Mike Solmiskus, as a matter of curiosity? That was after the Royal Society meeting, wasn’t it?
I have no idea when you took him on as a student.
Yes, when we advertised for Ph.D.s. That must have been ‘83 or something like that?
Actually I don’t know. You didn’t mention that yesterday.
When did we publish reports in ‘85, we had written that chemistry paper which we didn’t do until Mike had finished, so Mike must have finished in ‘84. So we must have taken one in 4, 3, 2, I suppose you know. Because I remember sitting next to Brian Thrasher in the Royal Society meeting and suddenly having the thought now it was some chemistry news about ozone margin we’d actually start looking at the Antarctic data. Which would always intrigue me because it was one of the oddity’s of ozone variations, as you’d say before. Ozone does fall extremely rapidly when the temperatures stay constant and this needs a little bit of explanation. Which is why I choose to ask Mike to model it rather than the other one, actually. A huge mistake as it turns out, I suppose.
You asked Solmiskus to do it?
Well, we advertised for a student and he applied. Brian actually — it was the chemist’s job to appoint him rather than me. I don’t think I actually sat on the interview.
Okay, so you were looking for a chemistry.
Yes, we agreed with Brian’s choice and Brian agreed that we should ask for a graduate student to interview a Ph.D. The object would be to try and model would be to try to apply 1-D model and see how it goes. In those days it would have been pointless to do 2 or 3 D modeling.
And so how did these conversations with.
We held the Royal Society meeting on the stratosphere. There’s probably a volume upstairs I could dig out. I presented a paper.
Oh, the ‘77 paper?
No, it was later than that. It must have been ‘80. There was another one? I can’t remember.
I can’t remember either. I thought.
I remember sitting next to him in the [???] and sort of saying to him over coffee, “What about ?”
Yeah, getting through my day, yeah. Actually do some modeling, find out what was going on and he agreed.
Yes. Well, one of the curiosities of 1-D modeling. Everyone had settled for themselves in the sense that you could only 1-D model a global representation, so you modeled it starting north and you pretended this was a global modeling. And I sort of said, “Well if you can apply 1-D model anyway, let’s apply it.” Over the Antarctic it was preferred. I mean you know, you find out why it doesn’t work. And I’m glad we did. I mean, you can’t get nowhere near the true reason, so you start throwing things like chemistry, but now looking back it was not obvious but had to be learned in the usual hard way.
So there was no attempt to do any 2-D?
No. At that stage in the discussions with Brian and with Mike, I mean the idea I don’t think I ever once mentioned the idea of depletion. He might have talked to Jonathon about the odd rumor. But when you mentioned yesterday the suggestion that I stopped him working on that, I mean I did in the sense that I was insistent that I didn’t really think the jagged bit of the record was worth trying to model as a sort of decline was. He’d already left. I think he had a job already before in the electronic industry long before the ozone paper was out.
So far as you’re aware, Solmiskus wasn’t attempting to model any sort of decline or anything like that?
No, no, it was the other way around. To our horror of the model insisted that it was hard to fall away to almost nothing before it entered the polar night. If you just put chemistry and no motion, no ozone source, you’d dropped the ozone value to a hundred Dobson units by the beginning of the winter, which is so clearly didn’t agree with the observations.
Of there being something wrong?
Well, you cooked it, so you put it in a source which was simply a vertical velocity through the thing. Didn’t [inaudible] vertical velocity to see roughly what it was. And it turned out to be not an unreasonable estimate in terms of radiating feedback on some things like that.
But you didn’t quash?
As far as I’m aware. I’ve not often been accused of quashing. I never really considered myself as a quashing person, quite actually. I’m rude when I ask people to do things and they do some things different or do it badly. That’s true. History will tell. We’ll see what they have to say.
So then in ‘82 you would have been presented at some point the data from the ?
Yes, I must have seen it, and I must have been aware that the values were below the, well, what we assumed to be the baseline, but what was the mean. I don’t remember when we first published the mean. ‘74 or ‘75. That was in the ‘77 paper, wasn’t it? I wrote some on climatology, which was the first time.
Yeah, so we then took that as the baseline climatology.
Let me clear something. What was your actual title at this time?
Heaven alone knows.
I mean, you were in the same position for how long?
Oh no, it kept changing. I’m trying to think of all the relevant dates, etc., and things. Let’s see if we can manage it for you. Up till ‘76, I was a senior associate fellow in Edinburgh paid for by the survey. And then when the survey was all moved down in ‘76, I restructured the whole thing and sort of emissary of the science division for which Pickett was appointed head of that.
He wrote the paper in the Philosophical Transactions Royal Society it appeared right after.
Yeah, yeah. Well it didn’t actually. He put his name on it. It’s worse than that. I mean I’ve had to say to a Nobel prize winner, "I don’t mind you putting your name on a paper which you haven’t written a word of, but I think you ought to read it before you send it for review."
Is that something you want to get on record?
Well, okay. And…
Goodness knows what happened then. Management wanted new and exciting science, you see, and then the whole trouble with running routine observations is you don’t have time to think. You can certainly sort of detail getting the right supplies to the boys at the right time. I can’t remember what it was I was handed the wonderful title a section by myself called Analysis was the name. That must have been in ‘78 I suppose.
Oh, was that analysis.
Oh no, I mean this included…
All the meteorological…
Yeah, geomegasist, [???], you name it. It was still a massive task. But nevertheless I was still, as it were, concerned. I mean I was still sort of supervising Brian and he was supervising Jonathan. So there was this sort of chain of things.
And what you were here, this is the analysis unit? And you were the director?
Yeah, but I mean it was me. It was an effort to give me some more free time. That’s why Jonathan was in such a high fever when I was first appointed. People don’t have any idea, nowadays how, sordid it is to have hand records and charts then have to sort of scale them when you get them home. Now everything is automated and it comes back on a disk and you hope it makes sense. But sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it does. So the trouble is you never escape. You always have a backlog two or three years long which you feel you’ve got to keep. Yeah, I guess that’s about it.
And so then you remained in that position until…?
Well, I mean once the ozone hole broke, I was more or less a freelancer. People, well, they first of all said, very sadly, we’re very sorry that we can’t give you any money. We can’t give you ozone sums, we can’t figure out this or the other. I mean, I said all right. Typical manufacturer’s pay for the ozone science we flew in ‘87. And they very kindly gave us $13,000 pounds to pay for the man to go to Halley to supervise. So it was all very sort of… I’m not in the least words complaining about it. But the publicity was such, in the usual rules in these places are that you don’t speak to the press without first going to the director, blah, blah, blah. So I simply said, “Well, do you really want to run out at midnight every day for the next…?” And so they eventually agreed to trust me and I could do what I liked. And they got a lot of publicity which they didn’t deserve. Well no, I mean as I say, management is a funny thing. It sort of pries [?] out for new and exciting science. You are handing it to them on a plate by accident. Not because you’re clever or anything, but they still don’t recognize it when it’s given to them until it’s too late.
Other people’s point it out?
Well you know, the Americans are lucky they had to answer things well under away, and did a jolly good job. Yep.
Okay, so in ‘82 you say you were probably aware of this?
Well, I’m fairly sure. As I say it was my habit to sort of try to look through these things once a year at any rate. But you’re right. ‘82, if you look back, it’s when I took them the 10%. Big deal for October [?]. Yes. I mean, the world just wasn’t focused down there from ‘78 I suppose through to ‘85. It was almost a dying subject.
But even if there was a small decrease in ‘82, your immediate, she says your immediate reaction was that you suspected an equipment failure. And if you…
Well yes, I mean I come back to that. You know, the first thing you think of when you say the ozone trend is that you see it somewhere else. And probably in the ‘77 paper, to find a trend is actually a suspicion that you’re doing something wrong. So yeah, I mean, I would have done it. That may well have been when the instrument went. I honestly can’t remember. I’ll ask Brian to check that.
I mean if you felt the values in ‘82, you would have seen them when, the end of ‘82?
We would have gotten them — I mean, we had most of the reports, so we would have seen…
Because the instrument would have gone in January of ‘82.
That was the new one, was it?
Yes I see, right, okay. No, I obviously — my memory of that history as completely useless.
I have to get those records from Joan about when it actually came.
I was still baffled. I mean, I still had this funny.
You still think the instrument was down there longer than two weeks? Side by side?
No, I’m trying to think back to why we found ’84 — I mean ‘84 was a huge shift. It went somewhere near 20% to nearly 30%. And then the values sort of coming out with 0900s. I mean I can remember we were actually sitting there, certainly digesting monthly reports of daily values of the ozone. I just had a funny feeling there were two sets of them. I forget.
Could it have been the…
I had a funny feeling.
Two sets coming from the?
Something was going to be resolved that year.
Yes, in ‘84. Why… I really can’t remember. New instrument in Faraday, or something like that.
No, I haven’t asked about that maybe that’s… maybe 31? Did 31 — well, would 31 would come back in 82. And then that would have been refurbished, would that have gone out? You say the Faraday, then brought the Faraday back in?
That’s a good question. I just had a funny feeling that one was diverted to Halley and we didn’t — I mean that’s right. I’m curious about it. You might want to check with John Shanklin once more. You may want to see if he. Anyhow, ask him to see. I just had a funny feeling sitting there in October. I mean I can remember, and I invented it.
You invented what?
That terrible presentation where we showed the previous climatological means, the maximum and minimum for each day, and then when we were plotting things on it and stuff. And we were thinking that perhaps this was a better way of doing it instead of trying to use statistics of it because it sort of brought things out quite clearly. And I can remember plotting this out for the structured meeting.
That was for the advisory committee?
No, it was for the November [inaudible].
And you were thinking that there was something that was going to be resolved or?
Yes, I have some sort of feeling that something — you know, if something agreed, it was something else. I couldn’t think what it was. I just had a feeling that one year there was an instrument sitting there through the spring. Obviously I have a terrible memory.
I’ll get back to John Shanklin.
Yes, sure. We’ll have a look at it. We’ll have a word with Brian. Brian is away at the moment, isn’t he? On UVP or something?
Yes, in Brussels. So then in October of ‘84 she actually describes how in October of 84, how you, Mergatroid and Gardner all sat down together to look at the data. You can tell me if this sounds like…
Well, yeah, I mean that was just sort of merging together, I think. That was that weekend and I just dragged Brian and more or less, in a sort of fowl and angry mood because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself to the advisory committee. But then once we’d done that, we shared with Bob what it was about and as I say one of the reasons for going ahead was almost certainly, that Bob didn’t throw us out of court straight away. If he thought it was absolutely rubbish, he’d have said so quite gently. In his usual way.
Well again that would have been in November not in October. But previous to that you would have talked to Mergatroid about this?
I guess not very much, because he came about once a month for a day each month. And I would have guessed for most of that year we’d have been arguing about the chemistry paper, you know, that paper his name is on with Soliskus. No I would’ve guessed the first time he was aware of the decrease was probably, unless he talked to Jonathon or Brian. But Brian would have made a fuss about it.
Actually both of them don’t recall Mergatroid or Thrush being involved in…
No, no, Thrush wasn’t involved certainly. Bob was certainly shown it before the meeting. I don’t think we’d have made much fuss about it. Folks would say we were busy trying to…
Not early in the year, like September…
No, I wouldn’t think so. As I was saying, I was going through hell with the reviewers of that chemistry papers. And so things weren’t helping out.
So you think you probably didn’t mention it to Mergatroid until after that November meeting with...?
No, no, I’d of primed him before the meeting. I mean, I wouldn’t have been quite so forthright at the meeting.
Oh, no what I mean is that when Gardiner came into the office and you and him were going through.
No, oh sure, he wasn’t present on that day. I mean he came…
He came right before that.
No, after that.
Okay, you wrote it out that was before that.
We don’t show what the results of our deliberations were. And then this funny graphs. He took it as reasonably as science at that stage. And we were happy to make this dramatic announcement.
You don’t recall making any significant changes in response to Mergatroid’s suggestions or, it was more of a corroboration?
Oh, he had made very helpful comments on the writing; he always does. He was always a very — If we’d had flight’s offense, he would have turned us down. He was very conservative where he could. He was great fun, but he’s essentially a very solid, a real solid character. He didn’t tear the heart out or the hair out, you know. [Inaudible]. No, I guess his main contribution at that time was making me rewrite the chemistry paper a bit more. And taking out bits of it that really ought to still be there.
The other thing too, the, this the advisory committee, this was NARC, a NARC committee?
And see if this sounds.
It may need to be off the record.
This again from Sharon Rhone’s book which appeared, where she says…
Yes, I’ve got a copy of the book, but I [inaudible] I think.
Did you actually talk to her? Did she interview you?
Yeah, I must have talked to her but not for very long. I mean she talked to the other two, with Jonathon and Brian. I was away I think. I don’t know I think she [???] for an hour. It wasn’t a very long meeting, certainly.
She says that you met with the director. She doesn’t talk about it being the advisory committee meeting.
No, it was with the director.
You met with the director of the NARC, which he came around in early ‘84. Does that sound like the director of NARC came around in early 1984? Or do you know what she’s referring to?
Let’s see the rest of the story. I made be able to put it in context.
No she says the director of NARC came around in early ‘84 and as the account goes, which you presented him with your own ozone measurements and stuff like this and you said…
Oh, this is Bundy.
He asked you what you were measuring this for and…
No, that’s probably before that.
Well, then she’s got you in quotes.
Yes, well I mean it’s a story I sometimes tell people that I shouldn’t I suppose.
Is this a real story?
Yes, sure. No, no this actually happened. I can’t swear to the date. I would’ve thought it was a year before that. There was a new direction at the time we actually had to — I mean there was no talk of ozone depletion or anything of that sort. It was just simply a question of what are you doing. And one of the things we do here is measure the ozone and here are the results of years and years. Isn’t it nice to have this record in case people are saying that ozone should change? Well, we’ve done a long series and on Monday we’ll tell you whether it’s changed or not, but at the moment it hasn’t. And he came along with this high flown, what your typical high-table Cambridge remark.
And what did he say?
Oh, I forgot exactly what it was now. “Oh, you mean you’re making this measurement for posterity. What has posterity done for you?” No, I think the date’s wrong. I think there was a year before.
In fact it was 1983?
I would think it was ‘82, because by the time the ozone hole was published it was Fisher’s in charge. And I forgot when Bundy…
Who was this person that…?
Sir Harold Bundy. The great Bundy. Bundy Oil & Gold. I mean, you know, he has one London to station and one sort of vaguely apologized to me.
But you think it was ‘82 or '83?
I think it was probably ‘82.
And you don’t recall mentioning ozone depletion?
No, no. Ozone depletion would not to being mentioned at all at that meeting. It was prized.
Just, I mean, in general terms if you know the stratosphere ozone is being depleted, well you know we’ve got a record and we can tell.
Well yes. But this is one of our, sort of, most prized records. As you say, it’s the only long term record in the southern hemisphere. And this is the reason why we trust it because we’d done so and so and so. But it was typical of the attitude at the time that ozone must be easy to measure, you know, five minutes a day is enough to do that, surely.
Why do we have to spend money?
Why do we have to spend money, precisely, for doing it?
So you wouldn’t have mentioned anything about CFCs?
Don’t know if I knew about CFCs probably at this time. I must have done, I suppose because I mentioned it in the ‘77 paper. Yeah, I mean I just said have you heard the idea that CFCs will eventually deplete the ozone layer, but I certainly wouldn’t have claimed at that stage. It was remaining to be seen.
But you didn’t — I mean she says you told her you were measuring CFCs. You never mentioned CFCs at Halley or before?
No, no. No, were we collecting air samples in those days? I can’t remember. I don’t know. I don’t think any of the air samples were measured. We used to bring back samples of radioactive things and various other things. I can’t remember, no, not to my knowledge.
And you didn’t ozone profiles at all, until — you did a few in the ‘70s?
We did a few. I can’t remember what it was now. ‘74 or something like that, it was the people at Wallups Island who actually provided them. And we cleared them at Argentine Island. No, I mean I many times I asked for — ozone, to almost have a background measurement as it were in case anything ever did change for this, but it never got anywhere. It was always deemed too expensive. Somewhere about then, the idea was if you put a ring of about six stations, you might actually work out the mass transfer. That came to nothing, not according to having any of that sort of funding, thank you.
How much would have that been? The funding?
That would have been funding all by the UK?
No, no, our mean our contribution to it, there would have been four or five countries involved probably. A $100,000 pounds each in those days, I suppose. Not big money, but nevertheless, the big [???] was free, as it were. All this — I mean, just shows what’s wrong with working in the Antarctica. I mean, I’ve forgotten how much the budget was. Let’s say it was $5 million — it was a pretty hefty sum. But you’ve got to run two ships, you’ve got to run two aircrafts, you’ve got to maintain four bases. You got a hundred people going through. You end up with the amount you got free to devote to new science by about a quarter of a million that you’re free. You’ve got eighty good scientists wanting to do something new, so that’s $3,000 pounds each. You don’t make great advances like that. But that’s the way of the world. It sounds so generous on the whole, but if you expand the organization at the wrong time, and it’s not doing anything very exciting, when something exciting comes along there’s just no leeway to catch up in the next three or four years. You need an injection of new money or you need to kill off the organization and build it up again. In a sense, restructure.
Well, has the survey itself been endangered?
Oh, many times. It got effectively saved in a sense by the Falken Draw [?], whereupon Mrs. Thatcher turned around and sort of said that the survey funds were to come through the normal channels ??? ??? ??? no one could decrease them. Of course the immediate effect of saying that is that no one is going to increase them all. So it works both ways. So, it was secured in a sudden sense, but it was secured in a rather dreadful position of not being able to expand without first committing suicide.
But it has gotten an infusion of money since the…
Oh yes, in the sense now there’s much more money being diverted to… NARC now has sort of special topics people can apply for. Of course there’s European money now, which is over and above. But then again, you have to apply; you have to contribute an equal amount of yourself for what you get from the Europeans. So yes, things are a little easier, but you still got hanging around your neck this logistic problem of getting there and keeping people safe and so forth. So it’s never really had money to throw.
How much time was that taking up for you, working with him? Were you spending most of your time, prior to like…
No, I think, I spent two or three half days a week, in this sort of initial term trying to teach him about Antarctica and what we thought we knew about it. And then he disappeared and started playing with the chemistry, getting the chemistry data and things together. Which was quite a jump in those days actually. It wasn’t quite as easy as it is now. And then I really, I suppose, spent a lot more time on it when we had some of the model runs. Yes, I think it’s a fair statement. There are people here who believe computer models, and there are people like me who want to see inside them. So I guess I had to sort of sit on them fairly hard in order to churn out lots of them. I mean, what you normally do with these things is you print out one value per day on all the various values, and that’s not good enough. You want to sort of see what the dynodal [?] variations are and why things are doing this. I insisted that all the data bits were thrown out so that we could actually see what we thought was going on.
With them all?
Yes. So I guess I spent in that last year, well, before he submitted the thesis and before we actually published the paper and then pulling the model pretty well to bits to be quite sure that there weren’t silly things going on.
What was your general assessment of the ability of the 1-D models to produce anything useful, so far as…?
It depends where you, how you run them. If you run them in the modern way, where you think you’re following an air pass along the different a trajectory and the pressures and temperatures are running up and down. I mean it does a very good job, up to the limits of, what, 10 or 15 days unless you happen to be in a situation where you’re going to have a little strain in the atmosphere and the mixing is a problem. But, no, just running approximately along a trajectory, is a very sensible thing to do. It’s completely likely useless anywhere else because it mishandles all the — well first of all, if you use the assistance of mean in the atmosphere, it takes away all the fun — you lose the extremes. So you never learn about Antarctica having temperatures of 180. If you’re foolish enough to run it in Antarctica, you then have to do all sorts of ad hoc assumptions to make it look at all sensible. And it’s all just a question of how far you see with these things, whether it means… I think, I don’t know. I’ve never regretted that exercise. I think we learned quite a lot from it. We’re always amazed what come out of it in the sense of when we started looking at how much it mattered how long you had darkness and how long you had photolysis. I mean, although NOX in there about the NR2 cliff, as it were, no one had ever really sort of, as far as I could see, done the photolysis or entered the files in these things wrongly because now all the rate constitutes change quite a bit [correct wording (from “because”)]. But nevertheless, we showed quite dramatically that the difference between 24-hour photolysis and half an hour of darkness is enormous. There literally is in the atmosphere a wall of a chemical substance controlled simply by the lighting on it. So yes, I think we learned quite a bit from it. No one’s really — David Faye was actually still talking about it about two years ago when he came along. So, yeah, it wasn’t too bad. Anyway, it was an elementary thing in that sense.
How do you see all that work in forming the Nature paper? How much of that served as a…
It was nice to have some funny feeling as to why Antarctica was sensitive to chlorine, although we didn’t get the full story. Nevertheless I was amused about 5 years ago someone produced it again and submitted it.
Produced what, the …?
Produced the thing I was talking about where they, ratio of CL to things depends very critically on the record of narratives and things like that. This actually appeared in a paper about five years ago. They didn’t sort of know it was in our paper. Oh well, no, I mean I don’t think Brian Thrush liked it very much when we published it, but he didn’t say it was wrong so we tried it. I mean it was all we could do with the 1-D model, in a sense. We had the values for the summer, and we knew about the — [???] had told us it was perfectly obvious there wasn’t going to be any other way, which we already knew in a sense because the museums had already measured it. Maybe a criticism you can make it the original paper is we didn’t try very hard to grovel the other evidence around the place, we really didn’t. But it was just going to take too long. As I say, we had about three weeks to write it, and we didn’t — we just had to tell the story as we knew it fairly clearly as we could. Hope that other people in the know would put other bits in.
So were you happy when you got it done?
Yes and no. Relieved I think is the thing.
Brian Gardiner was telling me how he showed up at your house that Saturday with a bottle of wine.
Oh, Christmas Eve, did he? I can’t remember.
Yes, Christmas Eve. Well we actually worked it out and think that he mailed the paper, well I don’t think he said that you knew this. Cause he actually came to your house with a bottle of wine. I guess it was the day after you finished working on it he was supposed to go and mail it. But he actually kept the paper in case you wanted to make more changes, and he showed up the next day. He didn’t tell you he had the copy because he just wanted to see if you were going to say, “Oh God, I wish I had the paper to make some more changes!” But he told you he had mailed it and he had the bottle of wine.
Oh well, that’s okay. I’ll believe that yes, indeed. I don’t actually recall it.
You don’t recall him showing up that day?
Well it was Christmas Eve, which was what was funny about it.
Well, we worked it out. I think he mailed it the 22nd.
Oh, that sounds reasonable. Not far off. Yes.
And I think in someone else’s account, they say they actually appeared at the office of Nature on Christmas Eve.
Oh, I’m pretty sure they’re right, I see. As a present for them ?
I have to find out from Nature when they, I mean I guess they…
I don’t remember the bottle of wine. Oh I don’t know. I usually remember things like that. I’m sure he’s right, if he says so.
He never told you that though, that he had the paper, that he kept it?
No, I’ve never heard that before, I assumed it had gone off. Was it Saturday morning actually?
It was a Saturday morning.
I seem to recall that. We must have been in the office on Monday, then. It was funny at the time, writing it.
What was the actual process of writing it? Were you doing most of it?
I just did the first draft. Bob kept saying all sorts of things and Brian kept saying, “No let him put it back.” In the usual way these things get done. I guess several waste paper baskets were filled in the usual way. Was it before computers, I thought. No, I think it was written in long hand. Should have been done on a word processor. Half the problem was the length. I’ve forgotten who we talked to. Philip Campbell? It must have been Philip Campbell in those days who was at...
Yes, the science editor. He had insisted I think it was four pages or so.
So you had talked to them before submitting the paper asking…
Well, yes, it was fairly clear it had to be a letter not an article and I’m fairly sure we rang them up and we said, how much space can we have. And then got the answer, four pages was all. I’ve done some reviews for them so we knew them pretty well.
I want to ask you this question again. The reviews you got back from Susan Solomon, you had mentioned stuff that she had said something about the stratosphere over Antarctica, and you mentioned something about how she…
Oh, she had this idea that there was continuous flow down the isotropic surfaces enter Antarctica. So, through the spring I suppose. It’s actually perfectly clear when you look at it; it’s not like that at all. What actually happens is that in the summer, the isotropic surfaces are dipped on like that, and to form a winter you bow them up like that. Now you can call that descent if you like, but it depends which coordinates you’re in. It’s descent relative to the isotropic surface. But then what happens is once you’ve got that sort of bow shaped/pear shaped thing, it becomes an entity, round like an onion and there’s not much you can do to it.
It’s that shape in the winter?
Yes, and so you can’t actually push new stuff into it or any of that sort. And all the dissent is actually outside it and in my humble view; I mean the substance is rounded. Air is pulled down very strongly from the mesosphere into the upper stratosphere in the winter. But it can’t get inside the stretch of thing; it comes down the side of it. And this is sort of sealed off thing. Now, she had the idea that…
This is inside the polar vortex?
Yes, inside. She had the idea at that stage that air was continuously thrusting it’s way down this and all through the spring.
Okay. And what was her — she thought that, and what did she think that, what relevance was that to…
Oh well, I’ve forgotten, but it was alternative explanation of the…
Of the depletion?
At [???] it was dynamical. Partly dynamically sum of this could be thing. I need to dig out the original paper. I mean she showed [???] things where she can’t account for in that way, because that’s actually in some cases what they are. It’s a bit of this coming out and moving the boundary of this. Use it here and using the boundary if you come across it.
So, this entire thing is being doubled by which coordinate system you’re working in. People nowadays talk about substance to mean crossing the isotropic surfaces, but in physical space, the isotropic surfaces actually move about during the winter. And so, if you’re working an altitude system, the air is not actually moving at all. It’s the isotropic surfaces moving relative to the air. So it’s all very confusing.
So the air in the winter just goes down the sides of the iceberg.
Oh well, that’s what it seems. Otherwise it’s difficult to account for the fact that dust doesn’t get in and various other things don’t get in. But what you see inside if you actually measure on isotropic surfaces, you do actually see of course CFCs on a lower isotropic surface and you would see it that at the beginning of the winter. But if you start using dreadful noise like descent or whatever, you have to be cautious. I think of that as a physical descent anyway.
Okay, so you’re actually saying you’re seeing is, the CFCs at a lower level?
At a lower potential temperature. That may not be lower altitude. It depends entirely on the isotropic surfaces in the altitude. There’s a whole sort of coordinate picture which people still express in what I think are rather confusing way. We need to think much more about it. But, I mean, you can always show from models that in fact the whole of the mesosphere comes down to something like 30 millibars in the course of winter. I mean it’s a huge thing. But then it can’t continue as a homogenous body. Then it gets sort of torn up and mixed around here. But it certainly doesn’t come down into here. This is older air, the air you see right here.
And she thought it was actually penetrating — something like that?
I’ve forgotten now, but at any rate. Bowie simply said politely we didn’t agree with this, that there are other ways of actually looking at it. I know she wasn’t meant him any harm; and she’s usually a good humored soul. Robert was really the surprised one.
Okay, what sort of comments did he have on there, other than the… ?
Nothing really. He was more or less saying this is impossible. And this was sort was about to rattle off some chemistry, then his line sort of half-ended. And then some new paragraph starts. But of course, if it’s true, it’s very exciting. I’ve never seen such a short review in my life, actually.
How long was Susan’s?
Oh, she took about a page and a half or two pages, in her usual way. Plus some copies of Jubashie’s [spelling?] diagrams and things.
But, yeah, that’s one of the things I wanted to ask you too. When you were writing this up did you look to see if they showed her data?
I wasn’t even aware of Jubashie at the time. Brian had been to this meeting and had met him.
That was in ‘85, yeah after .
Oh it was afterwards? It was before surely.
No, it was the summer of eighty — it was the same meeting where he met Sherry Rhone there.
That was ‘85.
Yeah he actually met Sharon Rhone.
After the paper was published. That makes sense.
And he sat down next to Jubashie at a meeting. Didn’t know who he was and they introduced themselves. But this never came up when you writing the paper though?
No, no. I mean the first I heard of it was when Susan told me about it.
Did you know about Showa Station?
Oh yes, we knew about Showa Station. We had the year books, but the year books come out four years after the data. So no, I certainly — I don't know, it must be when Brian came back for a while that he got to tell me about Jubashie. But that’s not surprising that we were dancing up and down like idiots, wondering what to do next.
Well, I think I’ve gotten everything. Thank you.
Right. Be contented.