Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fires burning in Africa and Asia cause high ozone in tropical Pacific

13.01.2016

Study indicates 'biomass burning' may play larger role in climate change than previously realized

As decision makers from around the world congregated in Paris to prepare a global climate agreement at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), many discussions focused on how to reduce greenhouse gases, including ozone.


Two research planes on complementary missions flew over Guam measuring the levels of dozens of chemicals in the atmosphere in January and February 2014. The British Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) BAe-146 research aircraft flew during the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council Coordinated Airborne Studies in the Tropics (CAST) mission. The aircraft that flew during the CONvective Transport of Active Species in the Tropics (CONTRAST) mission was the HIAPER (High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research), a Gulfstream V jet sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Atmospheric Research and modified for advanced research. Taken together, the data collected by the two aircraft gave research collaborators a detailed view of air masses spanning tens of thousands of feet from the ocean surface to the stratosphere.

Credit: Loretta Kuo/Shawn Honomichl

While efforts to limit ozone precursor emissions tend to focus on industrial activities and fossil fuel combustion in the United States and China, a new study suggests that future regulations may need to address the burning of forests and vegetation. The study, which was published online January 13, 2016 in the journal Nature Communications, indicates that these types of "biomass burning" may play a larger role in climate change than previously realized.

Based on observations from two aircraft missions, satellite data and a variety of models, an international research team showed that fires burning in tropical Africa and Southeast Asia caused pockets of high ozone and low water in the lower atmosphere above Guam--a remote island in the Pacific Ocean 1,700 miles east of Taiwan.

... more about:
»Atmosphere »Atmospheric »ozone

"We were very surprised to find high concentrations of ozone and chemicals that we know are only emitted by fires in the air around Guam," said the study's lead author Daniel Anderson, a graduate student in the University of Maryland Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science. "We didn't make specific flights to target high-ozone areas--they were so omnipresent that no matter where we flew, we found them."

For the study, two research planes on complementary missions flew over Guam measuring the levels of dozens of chemicals in the atmosphere in January and February 2014. One aircraft flew up to 24,000 feet above the ocean surface during the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council's Coordinated Airborne Studies in the Tropics (CAST) mission. The other flew up to 48,000 feet above the ocean surface during the CONvective Transport of Active Species in the Tropics (CONTRAST) mission.

"International collaboration is essential for studying global environmental issues these days," said CAST Principal Investigator Neil Harris of the University of Cambridge Department of Chemistry. "This U.S./U.K.-led campaign over the western Pacific was the first of its kind in this region and collected a unique data set. The measurements are now starting to produce insight into how the composition of the remote tropical atmosphere is affected by human activities occurring nearly halfway around the world."

Researchers examined 17 CAST and 11 CONTRAST flights and compiled over 3,000 samples from high-ozone, low-water air parcels for the study. In the samples, the team detected high concentrations of chemicals associated with biomass burning--hydrogen cyanide, acetonitrile, benzene and ethyne.

"Hydrogen cyanide and acetonitrile were the smoking guns because they are emitted almost exclusively by biomass burning. High levels of the other chemicals simply added further weight to the findings," said study co-author Julie Nicely, a graduate student in the UMD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Next, the researchers traced the polluted air parcels backward 10 days, using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hybrid Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory (HYSPLIT) model and precipitation data, to determine where they came from. Overlaying fire data from NASA's moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) onboard the Terra satellite, the researchers connected nearly all of the high-ozone, low-water structures to tropical regions with active biomass burning in tropical Africa and Southeast Asia.

"The investigation utilized a variety of models, including the NCAR CAM-Chem model to forecast and later analyze chemical and dynamical conditions near Guam, as well as satellite data from numerous instruments that augmented the interpretation of the aircraft observations," said study co-author Douglas Kinnison, a project scientist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

In the paper, the researchers also offer a new explanation for the dry nature of the polluted air parcels.

"Our results challenge the explanation atmospheric scientists commonly offer for pockets of high ozone and low water: that these zones result from the air having descended from the stratosphere where air is colder and dryer than elsewhere," said UMD Professor Ross Salawitch, the study's senior author and principal investigator of CONTRAST. Salawitch holds joint appointments in the university's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center.

"We know that the polluted air did not mix with air in the stratosphere to dry out because we found combined elevated levels of carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and ozone in our air samples, but air in the higher stratosphere does not contain much naturally occurring carbon monoxide," said Anderson.

The researchers found that the polluted air that reached Guam never entered the stratosphere and instead simply dried out during its descent within the lower atmosphere. While textbooks show air moving upward in the tropics, according to Salawitch, this represents the net motion of air. Because this upward motion happens mostly within small storm systems, it must be balanced by air slowly descending, such as with these polluted parcels released from fires.

Based on the results of this study, global climate models may need to be reassessed to include and correctly represent the impacts of biomass burning, deforestation and reforestation, according to Salawitch. Also, future studies such as NASA's upcoming Atmospheric Tomography Mission will add to the data collected by CAST and CONTRAST to help obtain a clearer picture of our changing environment.

###

In addition to those mentioned above, the study's authors included UMD Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Professor Russell Dickerson and Assistant Research Professor Timothy Canty; CAST co-principal investigator James Lee of the University of York (U.K.); CONTRAST co-principal investigator Elliott Atlas of the University of Miami; and additional researchers from NASA; NOAA; the University of California, Irvine; the California Institute of Technology; the University of Manchester (U.K.); the Institute of Physical Chemistry Rocasolano; and the National Research Council in Argentina.

This research was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, National Science Foundation, NASA, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

The research paper, "A pervasive role for biomass burning in tropical high ozone/low water structures" by Daniel C. Anderson et al., was published on January 13, 2016, in the journal Nature Communications.

Media Relations Contact: Abby Robinson, 301-405-5845, abbyr@umd.edu

Writer: Abby Robinson

University of Maryland
College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
2300 Symons Hall
College Park, MD 20742
http://www.cmns.umd.edu
@UMDscience

About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.

Media Contact

Abby Robinson
abbyr@umd.edu
301-405-5845

 @UMDRightNow

http://www.newsdesk.umd.edu/ 

Abby Robinson | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Atmosphere Atmospheric ozone

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Atomic precision: technologies for the next-but-one generation of microchips

In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.

In 1965 Gordon Moore formulated the law that came to be named after him, which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every one to two...

Im Focus: Researchers demonstrate size quantization of Dirac fermions in graphene

Characterization of high-quality material reveals important details relevant to next generation nanoelectronic devices

Quantum mechanics is the field of physics governing the behavior of things on atomic scales, where things work very differently from our everyday world.

Im Focus: Graphene: A quantum of current

When current comes in discrete packages: Viennese scientists unravel the quantum properties of the carbon material graphene

In 2010 the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for the discovery of the exceptional material graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms...

Im Focus: Transparent - Flexible - Printable: Key technologies for tomorrow’s displays

The trend-forward world of display technology relies on innovative materials and novel approaches to steadily advance the visual experience, for example through higher pixel densities, better contrast, larger formats or user-friendler design. Fraunhofer ISC’s newly developed materials for optics and electronics now broaden the application potential of next generation displays. Learn about lower cost-effective wet-chemical printing procedures and the new materials at the Fraunhofer ISC booth # 1021 in North Hall D during the SID International Symposium on Information Display held from 22 to 27 May 2016 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

Economical processing

Im Focus: Trojan horses for hospital bugs

Staphylococcus aureus usually is a formidable bacterial pathogen. Sometimes, however, weakened forms are found in the blood of patients. Researchers of the University of Würzburg have now identified one mutation responsible for that phenomenon.

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that is frequently found on the human skin and in the nose where it usually behaves inconspicuously. However, once inside...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Networking 4.0: International Laser Technology Congress AKL’16 Shows New Ways of Cooperations

24.05.2016 | Event News

Challenges of rural labor markets

20.05.2016 | Event News

International expert meeting “Health Business Connect” in France

19.05.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rutgers scientists help create world's largest coral gene database

24.05.2016 | Earth Sciences

New technique controls autonomous vehicles on a dirt track

24.05.2016 | Information Technology

Programmable materials find strength in molecular repetition

24.05.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>