The NASA ATom mission, operating since 2016, has discovered striking levels of air pollutants over the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans. Noteworthy is the long-lasting smoke and dust layer in the tropical Atlantic.
The survey plane sampled over 400 distinct gases and a wide variety of particles in the air in one-month missions from Alaska to New Zealand and then to South America, moving up the Atlantic to Greenland, and then across the Arctic Ocean.
During these three missions, with its fourth and final scheduled expedition since the end of April, the researchers have identified astonishing levels of air contaminants over the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans.
“It’s amazing to see so much pollution in the middle of the ocean, so far from the regions of origin,” says the principal investigator of the so-called NASA’s ATom mission, Steve Wofsy of Harvard University.
A smoke and dust layer, full of air pollutants, covers the tropical Atlantic Ocean
“When we first descended, we were stunned to find ourselves in a thick mist of smoke and dust that originated in Africa, thousands of miles to the east. The mist was an unattractive yellowish-brown color and was so thick that we could not see the ocean,” explained Steve Wofsy. “During each visit after that first one, we have found a similar mantle that extends for thousands of kilometers, covering the entire tropical Atlantic Ocean,” he added.
According to the researcher, the air in the tropical Atlantic, affected by a thick smoke and dust layer, presented very high amounts of pollutants.
NASA’s ATom mission’s scientists use computer models that emulate the flow of the principal harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, produced by incomplete burning to estimate what they could face whenever they schedule a flight.
“One of the best things about ATom is to show how well the overall model works,” stated chief scientist Paul Newman, of Earth Science at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
In their recent investigation, NASA’s ATom mission’s researcher discovered striking levels of air pollutants over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans.