Air ‘so polluted it can’t be worsened’: Volume of flights over UK leave atmosphere thick with greenhouse gas

 

A A A

The ozone pollution caused by flights over the UK is among the lowest of any country in the world - but only because the sheer volume of flights to and from the country have already left the atmosphere so thick with the greenhouse gas that it has become relatively much more difficult to generate more of it, a new report finds.

Research into nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions from aircraft reveals that the amount of the ozone greenhouse gas they produce varies considerably from region to region, with flights to and from Australia and New Zealand producing the most.

Ozone is produced when nitrogen dioxide emissions react with sunlight - the other reason why flights over and around the UK are relatively low producers of the gas, which is responsible for climate warming and health hazards such as respiratory problems.

Steven Barrett, lead author of the paper, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: “Our findings show that the cleanest parts of the atmosphere exhibit the most dramatic response to new emissions,” with the area over the Pacific, around 1,000 kilometres to the east of the Solomon Islands, being the most sensitive.

Emissions of oxides of nitrogen from flights over the Pacific produce 5.1 times as much ozone as an equivalent flight would do over the UK and are 3.7 times higher than for the US. This is because - unlike the UK - there are relatively few flights in the Pacific region, meaning there is proportionately less ozone in the atmosphere. Furthermore, sunlight levels are high.

As a result, 1kg of aircraft emissions over the Pacific creates 15kg of ozone, compared to just 3kg over the UK.

This is the first study to examine the environmental impact of specific flight routes, rather than aviation more generally.

“The places that the sensitivities are highest now are the fastest growing regions in terms of civil aviation growth, so there could potentially be ways to achieve significant reductions in the climate impact of aviation by focussing on re-routing aircraft around the particular regions of the world where ozone formation is highly sensitive to emissions of oxides of nitrogen,” Mr Barrett said.

“Of course, longer flights are going to burn more fuel and emit more CO2, so there will be a trade-off between increasing flight distance and other climate impacts, such as the effect of ozone,” he added.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future