Destruction Of Greenhouse Gases Over Tropical Atlantic May Ease Global Warming

Everyday we are constantly bombarded by the negative effects of global warming. However, scientists from the UK’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science and Universities of York and Leeds, has some very positive news to share.

Vast amounts of ozone – 50% more than what is predicted by the world’s-state-of-the-art climate models – are being destroyed in the lower atmosphere over the Tropical Atlantic.

This news is specifically important because the ozone in the lower atmosphere acts as a greenhouse gas. Its destruction also leads to the removal of the third most abundant greenhouse gas: methane.

Research Findings on Greenhouse Gas Loss

The findings came from analyzing data from Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory – recently set up by British, German and Cape Verdant Scientists. The scientists analyzed the first year of measurements from the observatory, and alerted by these data, flew a research aircraft into the atmosphere to measure ozone at different height and widely across the Tropical Atlantic. The results are similar to those made at the Observatory. It also showed vast ozone loss throughout the remote area.

Causes of Greenhouse Gas Loss

Instruments developed by people a the University of Leeds in the UK, which is also used at the Observatory, found that there is bromine and iodine oxide present over the area. These chemicals are produced by sea spray and are emitted by phytoplankton, causing the ozone to break down. The destruction of the ozone produces a chemical which destroys the methane.

Measurement and Experiment are irreplaceable

Monitoring the atmosphere over the Tropical Atlantic had not been possible before because of its physical inaccessibility. But now, with this new chemistry included in climate models, it can provide us with more accurate measurements of ozone and methane in the atmosphere. Thus, we will can make better climate predictions for the future.

Experts Take on This Startling Discovery

Professor Alastair Lewis, Director of Atmospheric Composition at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and a lead scientist in this study, said: "At the moment this is a good news story — more ozone and methane being destroyed than we previously thought – but the tropical Atlantic cannot be taken for granted as a permanent ‘sink’ for ozone. The composition of the atmosphere is in fine balance here- it will only take a small increase in nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel combustion, carried here from Europe, West Africa or North America on the trade winds, to tip the balance from a sink to a source of ozone"

Professor John Plane, University of Leeds said: "This study provides a sharp reminder that to understand how the atmosphere really works, measurement and experiment are irreplaceable. The production of iodine and bromine mid-ocean implies that destruction of ozone over the oceans could be global".

Dr Lucy Carpenter, University of York and UK co-coordinator of the Observatory added: "This observatory is a terrific facility that will enable us to keep an eye on the chemical balance of the atmosphere and feed this information into global climate models to greatly improve predictions for this region in the future".

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