Tearing Up Pollution

Something positive – not from our doing, but the Earth’s atmosphere itself.

It’s very possible that organic compounds called methyl hydroperoxide in the Earth’s troposphere react with low spectrum ultraviolet radiation, breaking up to produce hydroxyl radicals (one oxygen and one hydrogen atom) which are very good at absorbing hydrocarbons – a big source of air pollution.

Researchers Joseph Francisco (Purdue) and Amitabha Sinha (UC San Diego), with their cute little helper Jamie Matthews discovered this using a nifty new laser technique called action spectroscopy to help them determine spectral frequencies absorbed by these lower-region ultraviolet light-absorbing methyl hydroperoxide molecules, which they believe are breaking down into OH.

The nasty hydrocarbons mostly get destroyed by rain droplets absorbing them and dragging them back down to earth or sunlight’s energy just breaking them apart, or OH ripping them up. Their research shows that a lot of OH production might be unaccounted for, at least 20% of it. This is good news!

But it doesn’t mean we can scrap the Kyoto Accords…

Speaking of which, it seems our government still thinks the Kyoto Accords are a silly idea, even though most of the world has adopted them (if not funding them). But Mike pointed out a very, very interesting thing to me a while back, and progress has been made since.

Our mayor here in Seattle is leading the way for smaller regional governments to take up the torch for saving our planet when our national government fails us. The Northwest Environmental Watch says this:

Major props to Seattle mayor Greg Nickels who recently started the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. It is becoming something of a smackdown to federal leadership that refuses to take global warming seriously. The idea is simple: if the US government won’t ratify the Kyoto Protocol, then the constituent parts of the nation will.

Now that is something for us to be proud of. The full list of mayors who have signed their cities onboard is available, and even include New York City!

Thanks for pointing this out to me Mike – it’s very, very reassuring to know that at least some people can retain some sense.