Pacific Flights Create Most Amount Of Ozone
The amount of ozone created from aircraft pollution is highest from flights leaving and entering Australia and New Zealand.
Asian Scientist (Sep. 10, 2013) - The amount of ozone created from aircraft pollution is highest from flights leaving and entering Australia and New Zealand, a new study has shown.
The findings, published in Environmental Research Letters, could have wide-reaching implications for aviation policy as ozone is a potent greenhouse gas with comparable short-term effects to those of carbon dioxide (CO2).
The researchers used a global chemistry-transport model to investigate which parts of the world are specifically sensitive to the creation of ozone and therefore which individual flights create the highest amounts.
The results showed that an area over the Pacific, around 1000 km to the east of the Solomon Islands, is the most sensitive to aircraft emissions.
The sensitivity in this area was around five times higher than the sensitivity in Europe and 3.7 times higher than the sensitivity in North America.
"Our findings show that the cleanest parts of the atmosphere exhibit the most dramatic response to new emissions," said Steven Barrett, a lead author of the paper.
"New emissions in this part of the Pacific will result in a relatively larger response from the atmosphere."
In an analysis of around 83,000 individual flights, the researchers found that the 10 highest ozone-producing flights either originated, or were destined for, either New Zealand or Australia.
A flight from Sydney to Mumbai was shown to produce the highest amount of ozone – 25,300 kg – as the majority of the flight passed through the area in the Pacific where the sensitivity was the highest.
Furthermore, the aircraft leaving and entering Australia and New Zealand are usually very large and the flight times are often very long, meaning more fuel would be burnt and more NOx emitted.
Ozone is a relatively short-lived greenhouse gas, and its production and destruction relies heavily on the local chemical state of the atmosphere, so its effects are felt in specific regions at specific times rather than on a global scale.
"The places that the sensitivities are highest now are the fastest growing regions in terms of civil aviation growth, so there could potentially be ways to achieve significant reductions in the climate impact of aviation by focusing on re-routing aircraft around the particular regions of the world where ozone formation is highly sensitive to NOx emissions," said Barrett.
The article can be found at: Gilmore et al. (2013) Temporal And Spatial Variability In The Aviation NOx-Related O3 Impact.
Source: IOP; Photo: Vox Efx/Flickr/CC.
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