March 17, 2007
Soot From Asia Big On West Coast High Altitudes

Scripps researchers found large amounts of carbon particulates from Asia over the West Coast of the United States.

More than three-quarters of the particulate pollution known as black carbon transported at high altitudes over the West Coast during spring is from Asian sources, according to a research team led by Professor V. Ramanathan at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

With the Chinese putting 1 to 2 new coal burning electric plants online per week this problem is going to get much worse before it gets better. To repeat an argument I've made before: We need to accelerate the rate of advance of non-fossil fuels energy sources (primarily nuclear, solar, and wind). Only technological advances can make those energy sources become cheap enough that the Asians will want to switch to them and away from dirty fossil fuels. Populaces with lower living standards in less developed countries are less interested in the environment than they are in making more money. We can not expect them to take the same level of interest in reducing conventional pollutants as more affluent populations have.

Though the transported black carbon, most of which is soot, is an extremely small component of air pollution at land surface levels, the phenomenon has a significant heating effect on the atmosphere at altitudes above two kilometers (6,562 feet).

As the soot heats the atmosphere, however, it also dims the surface of the ocean by absorbing solar radiation, said Ramanathan, a climate scientist at Scripps, and Odelle Hadley, a graduate student at the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at Scripps. The two are lead authors of a research paper appearing in the March 14 issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.


The researchers found that transported black carbon from Asian sources is equal to 77 percent of North American black carbon emissions in the troposphere during the spring.

The dimming at the ocean surface will reduce the rate of photosynthesis by algae. That'll reduce carbon dioxide uptake by plant photosyntheis and therefore reduce fish food supplies and fish stocks.

The soot is heating up the Pacific.

On a regional level, that amount of heating, or positive radiative forcing, the black carbon causes in the skies over the Pacific is about 40 percent of the forcing that has been attributed to the carbon dioxide increase of the last century, said Ramanathan. It likely has measurable effects on a variety of other physical and biological conditions in the areas of the Pacific over which the particulate pollution passes.

Also see my previous post about Asian air pollution's effects on cloud cover over the Pacific Ocean: Asian Air Pollution Changing Clouds. Plus, see my post China CO2 Emissions To Surpass US In 2009. The Kyoto Accord and similar climate change agreements will not accomplish much as long as the fossil fuels are cheaper than non-fossil fuel energy sources. The Asian economic juggernaut is radically reshaping the old world order where the United States and Europe were the two biggest users of energy and emitters of pollution.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 March 17 11:30 AM  Climate Trends

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