NEWS AN D new s an d notes Notes Massive Pollution Documented over Indian the six-week experiment. The affected area includes Ocean most of the northern Indian Ocean, including the Ara- An international group of scientists has documented bian Sea, much of the Bay of Bengal, and spills over widespread pollution covering about 10 million square into the equatorial Indian Ocean to about 5° south of kilometers of the tropical Indian Ocean—roughly the the equator. same area as the continental United States. This find- The haze is caused by high concentrations of small ing by scientists participating in the Indian Ocean particles known as aerosols that are usually less than Experiment (INDOEX) raises serious questions about a few micrometers in diameter. Comprised primarily what impact the extensive pollution is having on cli- of soot, sulfates, nitrates, organic particles, fly ash, and mate processes and on marine life in the ocean below. mineral dust, the particles often reduced visibility over INDOEX, a $25 million project, sponsored in part the open ocean to less than 10 km, a range typically by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is investi- found near polluted regions of the United States and gating how tiny pollutant particles called aerosols are Europe. transported through the atmosphere, and their result- The haze layer also contains relatively high concen- ing effect on climate. The project is coordinated by the trations of gases, including carbon monoxide, various Center for Clouds, Chemistry and Climate (C4) at the organic compounds, and sulfur dioxide, providing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, an NSF Science conclusive evidence that the haze layer is caused by and Technology Center at the University of Califor- pollution. nia, San Diego. Paul J. Crutzen, director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and a 1995 Nobel lau- reate in chemistry, and V. Ramanathan, director of C4 Kansa s Grasshopper Stops a Rainfall Record at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, serve as cochief scientists. "Aerosols affect the amount of solar radiation that Recording self-registering is absorbed and reflected back to space by the atmo- rain-gauges fail for various rea- sphere," explained Jay Fein, program director in NSF's sons at times, but probably one division of atmospheric sciences. "They can also of the most unusual causes for change the composition of clouds, thereby altering the a failure was a grasshopper at amount of solar radiation they absorb and reflect back Topeka, Kans., during the early to space. Aerosol-cloud-radiation processes are morning of Aug. 4, 1924. The highly complex and not well understood. In fact, the grasshopper, "who hailed from effect of aerosols on our atmosphere's radiation bal- somewhere in Kansas," came down with the rain. ance is one of the largest sources of uncertainty in pre- Slipping backwards down the funnel of the gauge dicting future climate. INDOEX was designed to re- the grasshopper's hind legs reached the tipping duce this uncertainty." bucket below, and held it so that no automatic Ramanathan said the team of scientists was shocked record was made of the shower of nearly two- by the extent of pollution they encountered during the tenths of an inch.—B. R. Laskowski. six-week field experiment that began in early Febru- ary and continued through the end of March 1999. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 5, 135. The INDOEX scientists reported finding a dense, brown haze of pollution extending from the ocean surface to altitudes of 1-3 km. The haze layer covered much of the research area almost continually during Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society – American Meteorological Society
Published: Aug 1, 1999
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