Skip to comments.Greenhouse gas 'detergent' recycles itself in atmosphere
Posted on 12/02/2018 1:08:15 PM PST by ETL
A simple molecule in the atmosphere that acts as a "detergent" to breakdown methane and other greenhouse gases has been found to recycle itself to maintain a steady global presence in the face of rising emissions, according to new NASA research. Understanding its role in the atmosphere is critical for determining the lifetime of methane, a powerful contributor to climate change.
The hydroxyl (OH) radical, a molecule made up of one hydrogen atom, one oxygen atom with a free (or unpaired) electron is one of the most reactive gases in the atmosphere and regularly breaks down other gases, effectively ending their lifetimes. In this way OH is the main check on the concentration of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is second only to carbon dioxide in contributing to increasing global temperatures.
With the rise of methane emissions into the atmosphere, scientists historically thought that might cause the amount of hydroxyl radicals to be used up on the global scale and, as a result, extend methane's lifetime, currently estimated to be nine years. However, in addition to looking globally at primary sources of OH and the amount of methane and other gases it breaks down, this new research takes into account secondary OH sources, recycling that happens after OH breaks down methane and reforms in the presence of other gases, which has been observed on regional scales before.
"OH concentrations are pretty stable over time," said atmospheric chemist and lead author Julie Nicely at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "When OH reacts with methane it doesn't necessarily go away in the presence of other gases, especially nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2). The break down products of its reaction with methane react with NO or NO2 to reform OH. So OH can recycle back into the atmosphere."
Nitrogen oxides are one set of several gases that contribute to recycling OH back into the atmosphere, according to Nicely's research, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. She and her colleagues used a computer model informed by satellite observations of various gases from 1980 to 2015 to simulate the possible sources for OH in the atmosphere. These include reactions with the aforementioned nitrogen oxides, water vapor and ozone. They also tested an unusual potential source of new OH: the enlargement of the tropical regions on Earth.
OH in the atmosphere also forms when ultraviolet sunlight reaches the lower atmosphere and reacts with water vapor (H2O) and ozone (O3) to form two OH molecules. Over the tropics, water vapor and ultraviolet sunlight are plentiful. The tropics, which span the region of Earth to either side of the equator, have shown some evidence of widening farther north and south of their current range, possibly due to rising temperatures affecting air circulation patterns. This means that the tropical region primed for creating OH will potentially increase over time, leading to a higher amount of OH in the atmosphere. This tropical widening process is slow, however, expanding only 0.5 to 1 degree in latitude every 10 years. But the small effect may still be important, according to Nicely.
She and her team found that, individually, the tropical widening effect and OH recycling through reactions with other gases each comprise a relatively small source of OH, but together they essentially replace the OH used up in the breaking down of methane.
"The absence of a trend in global OH is surprising," said atmospheric chemist Tom Hanisco at Goddard who was not involved in the research. "Most models predict a 'feedback effect' between OH and methane. In the reaction of OH with methane, OH is also removed. The increase in NO2 and other sources of OH, such as ozone, cancel out this expected effect." But since this study looks at the past thirty-five years, it's not guaranteed that as the atmosphere continues to evolve with global climate change that OH levels will continue to recycle in the same way into the future, he said.
Ultimately, Nicely views the results as a way to fine-tune and update the assumptions that are made by researchers and climate modelers who describe and predict how OH and methane interact throughout the atmosphere. "This could add clarification on the question of will methane concentrations continue rising in the future? Or will they level off, or perhaps even decrease? This is a major question regarding future climate that we really don't know the answer to," she said.
Explore further: First direct observations of methane's increasing greenhouse effect at the Earth's surface
More information: Julie M. Nicely et al. Changes in Global Tropospheric OH Expected as a Result of Climate Change Over the Last Several Decades, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (2018). DOI: 10.1029/2018JD028388
Journal reference: Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres
Provided by: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
CO2 remains an excellent plant food?
CAGW still falls flat on it's @$$.
Drill, baby Drill!
But then, the one-world global-governance lefties would never want to find a 'fix', if such a fix was actually needed.
From the NY Slimes...
Removing carbon dioxide that is already in the air is seen as a potential way to combat global warming. There are various approaches, lumped together as negative emissions technologies to distinguish them from technologies that reduce or eliminate emissions from power plants and other sources.
Lots more at link...
Odd - usually the prevailing winds move west to east; east to west must be due to Trumps effect on the weather causing gullible warming.
Wrong. The most important players on the greenhouse stage are water vapor and clouds [clouds of course aren't gas, but high level ones do act to trap heat from escaping, while low-lying cumulus clouds tend to reflect sunlight and thereby help cool the planet -etl]. Carbon dioxide has been increased to about 0.038% of the atmosphere (possibly from about 0.028% pre-Industrial Revolution) while water in its various forms ranges from 0% to 4% of the atmosphere and its properties vary by what form it is in and even at what altitude it is found in the atmosphere.
In simple terms the bulk of Earth's greenhouse effect is due to water vapor by virtue of its abundance. Water accounts for about 90% of the Earth's greenhouse effect -- perhaps 70% is due to water vapor and about 20% due to clouds (mostly water droplets), some estimates put water as high as 95% of Earth's total tropospheric greenhouse effect (e.g., Freidenreich and Ramaswamy, 'Solar Radiation Absorption by Carbon Dioxide, Overlap with Water, and a Parameterization for General Circulation Models,' Journal of Geophysical Research 98 (1993):7255-7264).
The remaining portion comes from carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, ozone and miscellaneous other 'minor greenhouse gases.' As an example of the relative importance of water it should be noted that changes in the relative humidity on the order of 1.3-4% are equivalent to the effect of doubling CO2.
Water Vapor Rules the Greenhouse System
Water vapor constitutes Earth's most significant greenhouse gas, accounting for about 95% of Earth's greenhouse effect (4). Interestingly, many 'facts and figures' regarding global warming completely ignore the powerful effects of water vapor in the greenhouse system, carelessly (perhaps, deliberately) overstating human impacts as much as 20-fold.
Water vapor is 99.999% of natural origin. Other atmospheric greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and miscellaneous other gases (CFC's, etc.), are also mostly of natural origin (except for the latter, which is mostly anthropogenic).
Human activities contribute slightly to greenhouse gas concentrations through farming, manufacturing, power generation, and transportation. However, these emissions are so dwarfed in comparison to emissions from natural sources we can do nothing about, that even the most costly efforts to limit human emissions would have a very small-- perhaps undetectable-- effect on global climate.
Water Vapor Confirmed As Major Player In Climate Change
ScienceDaily (Nov. 18, 2008) Water vapor is known to be Earth's most abundant greenhouse gas, but the extent of its contribution to global warming has been debated. Using recent NASA satellite data, researchers have estimated more precisely than ever the heat-trapping effect of water in the air, validating the role of the gas as a critical component of climate change.
Might mention in the future that none of the computer climate models include water vapor.
This is the same thing.
The earth is self balancing. Man is just a pain in the butt.
And the control of the universe is far beyond any power of man.
Just look at the satellites we put up. We marvel at our ability. But they're nuts and bolts. Nothing living.
Then gaze at the stars, the moon and the sun....and we're mesmerized by their magic.
We're the benefactors of its' workings.
The erf is a remarkable system that can run itself despite what gov-co thinks.
Scientists find previously unknown natural mechanism of atmospheric “cleansing” of so-called “greenhouse gasses” from the atmosphere which proves the Greenhouse Theory has been based on false premises.
I don’t know if none do, but I’m sure its effect gets greatly minimized.
LOL What is this computer visual model hiding in the southeastern quadrant of the US?
Your .gif is running backwards I think.
Did anyone else notice that God (ok...Nature if you insist) is sooo much smarter than humanity’s collective human brain?
My small community pumps its sewage deep into the Earth: two thousand feet, where the biggest portion (pure water) will never resurface to evaporate again. If this is an ongoing solution for major sewer systems, won’t the Earth suffer in many ways for this loss of water?
Start putting that chit in Aqua Net and our Grandmas can Save Da Erf! :)
Sunlight moves from east to west, no?
Model output of OH primary production over a 24-hour period in July tracks with sunlight across the globe. Higher levels of OH over populated land are
likely from OH recycling in the presence of NO and NO2, which are common pollutants from cars and industry. Credit: NASA / Julie Nicely
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