Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Plankton Week: "Metal deposits from Chinese coal plants end up in the Pacific Ocean, research shows"

This will be plankton week at the blog, with a cast of characters including the Pope and a Vancouver stock promoter....

Unlike soot, the effects of the metals are not all bad.*

From PhysOrg, October 23:

Emissions from coal-fired power plants in China are fertilizing the North Pacific Ocean with a metal nutrient important for marine life, according to new findings from a USC-led research team. 

The researchers believe these metals could change the , though it's unclear whether it would be for better or worse.

The study shows that smoke from power plants carries and other metals to the surface waters of the North Pacific Ocean as westerly winds blow emissions from Asia to North America. Peak measurements show that up to nearly 60% of the iron in one vast swath of the northern part of the emanates from smokestacks.

"It has long been understood that burning alters Earth's climate and ocean ecosystems by releasing into the atmosphere," said Seth John, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of Earth sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. "This work shows fossil fuel burning has a side effect: the release of iron and metals into the atmosphere that carry thousands of miles and deposit in the ocean where they can impact marine ecosystems."

"Certain metal deposits could help some thrive while harming other life,'' he added. "There are inevitable tradeoffs when the ocean water's chemistry changes."

The study was published on Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers from USC, Columbia University, University of Washington, MIT and the University of Hawaii, among others, collaborated.

USC-led team confirms that ocean metals stem from China

While wind-blown mineral dust from deserts has long been considered an important source of iron to open ocean waters, the new study shows how manmade sources contribute important micronutrients that plankton and algae need. Moreover, the study shows how fossil fuel burning affects not only global warming but marine environments, too....


We usually babble about the metal laden dust that comes off Africa in terms of its inhibiting effects on hurricane formation. But at a couple hundred million tonnes, it has an effect beyond that, or the colorful sunsets we saw in late June when a really big plume crossed over.

*Good News For Arctic Ice: China's Black Carbon Emissions Decreasing
We've been harping on how devastating the stuff can be for a very long time.* Here's a post from January 2020 that quickly makes our case:
IMO 2020 Low-Sulfur Rules May Result In More Black Carbon Emissions in the Arctic 
This could be very not good.
Spreading black carbon on the polar ice caps was one of the geoengineering proposals during the Global Cooling scare of the 1970's. It's also one of the concerns associated with China's coal-fired power plants. (mostly soot, larger diameter than what emerges from VLSFO combustion)
The stuff lands on the ice and reduces the albedo. It also directly absorbs infrared.
Very not good.....