New Way to Study Pollution of Oceans

A study published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Geophysical Research has illustrated a new method in which scientists can estimate how much of the ocean’s pollution is falling from the sky.

Such a method will allow scientists the ability to understand how toxic airborne chemicals are impacting the oceans, and how much rain is falling.

Rosenstiel School scientists David Kadko and Joseph Prospero measured Beryllium-7 (7Be) isotope concentrations in the ocean, providing them with a method to accurately estimate rainfall in areas of the ocean where you simply cannot leave a rain collector bobbing around in the hope it will only collect rain water.

“Over vast areas of the oceans the only rainfall data available are those made by using conventional rain collectors placed on islands,” said Prospero, professor of marine and atmospheric chemistry at the UM Rosenstiel School. “However, rainfall on the island is not necessarily representative of that which falls in the surrounding ocean. Our paper shows that properly placed rain collectors on Bermuda do yield rainfall rates that agree with those determined through the 7Be measurements.”

By measuring 7Be, an isotope which is found naturally throughout Earth’s atmosphere, the two year study was able to confirm rainfall measurements and furthermore, allows scientists to establish new methods in which to quantify airborne pollutants being deposited into the ocean.

7Be attaches itself to atmospheric dust particles, which themselves enter the ocean during rain events.

“The accumulation of 7Be in the upper ocean provides a means of assessing 7Be deposition to the ocean on regional and global scales,” said Kadko, professor marine and atmospheric chemistryof at the Rosenstiel and lead author of the study. “This then can be used to assess the deposition of other chemical species.”

Source: Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Image Source: Vandelizer

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