- For the first time, scientists have detected trace amounts of ammonia in the upper troposphere – the lowest of Earth’s atmospheric layers.
- Released into the atmosphere as an agricultural emission from livestock farming and fertilisation, ammonia has been found in the highest concentrations above India and China, where population and economic growth has been skyrocketing in recent years.
- Earth’s troposphere extends from 7 to 20 km (4 to 12 miles) above sea level, and contains up to 80 percent of the planet’s atmosphere, and all weather phenomena.
- Similar levels of ammonia were detected nowhere else on Earth.
- The find reveals that ammonia released on Earth’s surface due to agricultural processes survives all the way to the troposphere, where it ends up in monsoons.
- It’s thought that because these traces of ammonia were found in Asian monsoons, the agricultural emission could be playing a role in aerosol formation in the troposphere.
Cause of Concern:
- When ammonia is released as an agricultural emission in high concentrations, it not only pollutes the local ecosystem, it can also drive the formation of new clouds and influence existing clouds in the atmosphere above.
- As NASA explains, aerosols can modify the size of cloud particles, and change how the clouds reflect and absorb sunlight, leading to haze and much redder sunrises and sunsets.
- Aerosols – tiny particles made from super-fine solid particles and liquid droplets carried in the atmosphere – often act as ‘cloud condensation nuclei’, around which cloud droplets are formed.
- While they’re the smallest particles that are thought to contribute to cloud formation, they also appear to influence the properties of existing clouds.
- Ammonia or also referred to as “azane” is a chemical compound of nitrogen and hydrogen. It is a colorless gas with a pungent smell.
- This gas originates from agricultural processes such as from livestock farming and fertilization.
- Currently, the highest ammonia emissions are in Southeast China and North India.
- Once the ammonia is released as an agricultural emission in an increased level, the local ecosystem is polluted and could trigger the formation of new clouds.
- This could also induce existing clouds in the above atmosphere and has a role in the aerosol formation in the troposphere.