Polar clouds are known to play a major role in the destruction of Earth’s protective ozone layer, creating the springtime “ozone hole” above Antarctica. Now, scientists have found that polar clouds also play a significant role in removing meteoric iron from Earth’s mesosphere. The discovery could help researchers refine their models of atmospheric chemistry and global warming.
Using a sensitive laser radar (lidar) system, laboratory experiments and computer modeling, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, studied the removal of meteoric iron by polar mesospheric clouds that they observed during the summer at the South Pole.
“Our measurements and models have shown that another type of reaction that takes place in the upper atmosphere – this time related to ice particles – plays a very important role in the processes that influence the chemistry of metal layers in this region,” said Chester Gardner, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois and one of the co-authors of a paper to appear in the April 16 issue of the journal Science.
James E. Kloeppel | UIUC
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