Tuesday, 23 Sep, 2008 Environment
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Chemical Equator to Help Map Air Pollution

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Researchers from the University of York found a "Chemical Equator" which separates the polluted air of the Northern Hemisphere from the clean air of Southern Hemisphere. Scientists working at the University's Department of Chemistry spotted the atmospheric chemical equator about 50 kilometers wide in clear skies in the Western Pacific.

For the first time their discovery shows that the chemical and meteorological frontiers located between the two hemispheres are not necessary identical. With their finding researchers will be able to offer important solutions to help create more precise simulations of the shift of pollutants in the atmosphere of the Earth. In addition, the finding would be helpful in evaluating the level of impact of pollution on climate.

The research will be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres. Researchers were able to find evidence of the chemical equator with the help of specific sensors mounted on a specially equipped NERC Airborne Research and Survey Facility Dornier 228 aircraft that flew north of Darwin.

According to Dr Jacqueline Hamilton, of the Department of Chemistry at York, the Tropical Warm Pool, shallow waters that belong to Western Pacific, features some of world's highest temperatures. This is the main reason why the weather in the region is mainly dominated by storms. The chemical equator was discovered south of the stormy area, while researchers were on the ACTIVE mission, headed by Professor Geraint Vaughan, of the University of Manchester.

"This means that these powerful storms may act as pumps, lifting highly polluted air from the surface to high in the atmosphere where pollutants will remain longer and may have a global influence. To improve global simulations of pollutant transport, it is vital to know when the chemical and meteorological boundaries are in different locations," said Dr Hamilton.

The team of researchers included scientists from the universities of York, Manchester and Cambridge. All of them observed the movement of pollutants in the Western Pacific. The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) was the one to fund the study, along with Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Flinders University and other partners.

Source: The University of York

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