Effects of Greenhouse Gases Shown in Pole-to-Pole Research Flights

A series of pole-to-pole research flights conducted by U.S. researchers have provided the most comprehensive picture of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and confirmed some of climate scientists’ more dire concerns about human-caused global warming.

Using sophisticated instruments capable of detecting a wide range of atmospheric components, scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research found evidence that the melting of Arctic ice is leading to significant releases of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, and that the releases could have significant impact on the climate.

Data collected during the mission, known as HIPPO, also suggests that black carbon particles — released by diesel engines, industrial activities, and fires — are more widely distributed than previously known, particularly in large plumes that travel from Asia, over the central Pacific Ocean, and onto the U.S. West Coast.

“Levels were comparable with those measured in megacities such as Houston or Los Angeles,” said Ryan Spackman, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a member of the research team.

photo: r.rosenberger

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