Environment: Study tracks historic changes in atmospheric acidity in Greenland ice sheet

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A NASA satellite photo shows Greenland’s ice sheet.

Fossil fuels leave clear fingerprint

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Researchers find all sorts of climate clues in Greenland’s ice sheet, and now, a new study of isotopes shows a distinct fingerprint of the long-term increase in atmospheric acidity.

The research by University of Washington researchers shows a decrease in levels of the isotope nitrogen-15 in core samples from Greenland ice starting around the time of the Industrial Revolution.

The decrease has been attributed to a corresponding increase in nitrates associated with the burning of fossil fuels. But the new evaluation links the decline increased acidity in the atmosphere — primarily from sulfur dioxide, which in the atmosphere is transformed to sulfuric acid, according Lei Geng, a UW research associate in atmospheric sciences. Following the Industrial Revolution, sulfur dioxide emissions increased steadily because of coal burning. Continue reading

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