Monsoon helps to raise pollution to new heights

March 26, 2010 - Scientists at the University of York have played a key role in new international research which demonstrates how one of the world's great natural phenomena is helping to increase pollution in the upper atmosphere.

Researchers in the Department of Chemistry at York were part of a team that used a satellite to provide important data revealing the growing impact of the Asian monsoon on pollution of the stratosphere.

New research published in the latest issue of Science Express shows that the monsoon is drawing hydrogen cyanide (HCN), a pollutant caused by biomass burning, into the stratosphere far more quickly than previously thought.

The research has been carried out by an international team which also included the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, the Department of Physics ain the University of Toronto and the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Peter Bernath, who headed the research at York, said the Asian monsoon circulation provided a pathway for pollution to reach the stratosphere.

The Asian monsoon is like a huge funnel which sucks up pollution into the stratosphere in a very short time. This research shows in a dramatic way that the monsoon pumps HCN into the stratosphere within a few weeks rather than the several months that we associate with the general pattern of air circulation in the tropics.�

The researchers believe that climate change could affect the strength and variability of the Asian monsoon circulation resulting in an even more pronounced impact on the chemical composition and climate of the stratosphere.

The data was gathered by the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (ACE) satellite mission which Professor Bernath helped to establish seven years ago.

The original objective of ACE was to monitor the ozone layer, but its function has evolved, and it is now used to monitor air quality and atmospheric pollution.

Professor Bernath said: It was originally intended to have a life of two years but it is now in its sixth year and is still providing us with a wealth of important data.�

Related Articles:

Randel, William J., Mijeong Patrk, Louisa Emmons, Doug Kinnison, Peter Bernath, Kaley A. Walker, Chris Boone and Hugh Pumphrey, Asian monsoon transport of pollution to the stratosphere, Science, 328, 611, DOI: 10.1126/science.1182274, 25 March 2010 (PDF)
Supplementary Material:
Asian Monsoon Supplement