Masters Opportunity: MPhil Science and Public Engagement
22 August 2016
Discovered: Nature Segregates Dirty, Rich Nations From Clean, Poor World - 27 September 2008
:: Written by Sam Aola Ooko
Nature has finally confirmed it: the industrialized nations may be rich but the air that people breathe in poorer nations in the Southern Hemisphere is cleaner four times over.
A chemical equator - an atmospheric line - discovered by scientists suggests the existence of a 50 kilometer-wide boundary between polluted air of the Northern Hemisphere and the largely uncontaminated atmosphere of the Southern Hemisphere.
In a model, the red that represents high levels of carbon monoxide present in the air in the Northern Hemisphere gives way to blue that reflects clean air of the South; in between, a white-colored ‘chemical equator’ separates them.
A project study carried jointly by researchers from York, Cambridge and Manchester universities has revealed that carbon monoxide, a tracer of combustion, increased from 40 parts per billion to the south, to 160 parts per billion in the north.
The difference in pollutant levels was increased by extensive forest fires to the north of the boundary and very clean air south of the chemical equator being pulled north from the Southern Indian Ocean by a land based cyclone in northern Australia.
The scientists discovered evidence of the chemical equator using sensors on a specially equipped airplane during a series of flights in Australia.
The discovery will provide important clues to help scientists to model simulations of the movement of pollutants in the atmosphere more accurately, and to assess the impact of pollution on climate.
Image credit: Glenn Carver / Cambridge University