Environment Current Affairs

Black Carbon released by aeroplanes may be affecting ozone, monsoon: Study

According to a recent study by climate researchers, aeroplanes may be ejecting significant amounts of black carbon (BC) which in turn is affecting monsoon,  depleting the ozone layer and quickening glacier melt.

The study was conducted by climate researchers from multiple institutions in India including from the Indian Institute of Science and ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

Key Facts

Earlier it was believed that airborne BC is unlikely to travel upward of 4 km and dissipate and settle down in few months under the influence of wind and rain. However, this study shows that such particles exist up to 18 km into the stratosphere, a stable region of the atmosphere.

Given the shape and location of these BC particles, researchers believe they could only derive from emissions from burning of aviation fuel in aeroplanes. As BC particles absorb heat, they warm the surrounding air, become lighter and rise to greater heights by a process called self-lift and persist for longer time in the air.

The airborne BC particles released by aeroplanes possess a problem because they can linger long time, enough to provide a fertile ground for other chemical reactions that can deplete the ozone layer. As, BC particles strongly absorb solar and terrestrial radiation and heats up the atmosphere it can also upset the monsoon system. If deposited on snow, it could accelerate the heating of snow and quicken the melting of glaciers.

Significance of Study: This is the first time that any group of climate researchers in the world has shown that black carbon from aircraft can go to the stratosphere and affect the ozone layer.


Earths Largest volcanic region found in Antarctica

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Britain have discovered the largest volcanic region on Earth, two km below the surface of the vast ice sheet in west Antarctica.

They have found 91 previously unknown active volcanoes in the region known as the West Antarctic rift system, adding to the exiting 47 volcanoes that were discovered earlier. This makes it largest volcanic region on the Earth.

Key Facts

These active peaks are concentrated in the west Antarctic rift system region — which stretches 3,500 km from Antarctica’s Ross ice shelf

to the Antarctic peninsula. The height of these newly discovered active volcanoes range from 100 to 3,850 metres, with the highest being almost as tall as Switzerland’s Eiger mountain (3,970 metre). All of these volcanoes are covered in thick layers of ice.

This region is larger than east Africa’s volcanic ridge which is currently rated as the densest concentration of volcanoes in the world. Any volcanic activity of Antarctic rift system may have crucial implications for the rest of the planet.

If one of the volcanoes in Antarctic rift system erupts, it could further destabilise west Antarctica’s ice sheets. If it causes the melting of ice on eruption may speed up the flow of ice into the sea. It will enhance sea level rises that are already affecting our oceans due to climate change.