TECHNOLOGY

Microplastics Earth’s climate can be cold and hot


Like ashes Originating from a supervolcano, microplastics have invaded the atmosphere and surrounded the Earth. These are plastic bits less than 5 millimeters long and they come in two main varieties. Bags and bottles are broken pieces (kids drink a few million tiny particles in their formula every day), and the microfibers loosen from the synthetic fabric in the wash and go out to sea. The air then jumps to land and ocean, carrying microplastics into the atmosphere. The air is so dirty with things that every year, more than 120 million plastic bottles fall into 11 protected areas in the United States, which is only 6 percent of the country’s total area.

In a study published today in the journal Nature, Scientists have taken the first swing at modeling how atmospheric particles can affect the climate, and it’s a strange mix of good and bad. The good news is that microplastics can bring a small fraction of the sun’s energy back into space, which will actually make the climate so cool. The bad news is that humanity is loading the environment with so many microplastics (ocean sediment samples show that the density is doubling every 15 years since the 1940s), and the particles are so diverse, that it is difficult to know what the pollutants will eventually be. Affects the climate. At some point they may end To heat Planets.

The earth absorbs some of the sun’s energy and reflects some of it, an exchange known as the radiating force. Like other aerosols in the atmosphere, such as dust and ash, microplastics interact with this energy, modeling has been found. “They’re very good at scattering sunlight in space, so we can see the cooling effect coming,” said Laura Revel, the atmospheric chemist who is the lead author of the new paper. “But they are also quite good at absorbing radiation from the earth, which means they can contribute to the greenhouse effect in very small ways.”

Like snowflakes, the two microplastics are not the same – they are made with many different polymers and come in a rainbow of colors. The environment becomes fragmented around it, while the fibers split repeatedly. And each particle grows a unique “plasticsphere” of bacteria, viruses and algae.

So when Ravel and his colleagues set out to create a model of how climate is affected, they knew it was impossible to represent so much diversity. Instead, they determine General The optical properties of fibers and fragments as two main groups – for example, how much they will reflect or absorb the energy of the sun. They based their model on pure polymers without pigments and assumed an atmospheric structure of 100 particles per cubic meter of air. The researchers then linked all of this to an existing climate model, which they said was an approximate effect of atmospheric microplastics on the climate.



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