Japanese scientists discover microplastics in Earth’s clouds – Thred

To conduct the study, scientists collected cloud water from Japanese mountain peaks between 1,300 and 3,700 meters.

The first sampling site was Mount Fuji, the largest mountain in Japan. Its peak reaches an area called the free troposphere, the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere.

The free troposphere contains 75 percent of the total mass of the planet’s atmosphere and 99 percent of the total mass of water vapor and aerosols. This is also where most weather phenomena occur.

The summit of Mount Ōyama now lies in the atmospheric boundary layer, in the lowest part of the Earth’s atmosphere.

In these two samples, scientists found microplastics that contained nine different types of polymers and a type of rubber. The clouds contained up to 14 pieces of plastic per liter of water, ranging in size from about 7 to 95 micrometers, slightly larger than the average width of a human hair.

Scientists note that plastics become hydrophilic after prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays. This makes them easier to move in the water.

The abundance of these polymers in some samples suggests that they may have acted as “condensation nuclei,” tiny particles in the air on which water vapor condenses.

Condensation nuclei are the building blocks for the formation of clouds, fog, haze, rain and other forms of precipitation. In this sense, it is possible that microplastics present in the atmosphere can influence or disrupt weather conditions.

The report states: “Overall, our results suggest that microplastics at high altitudes could influence cloud formation and thereby change the climate.” »

The study’s lead author, Hiroshi Okochi of Waseda University, said: “Microplastics are transported in the free troposphere and contribute to global pollution.” »

Studies have shown that air pollution and other microplastics can be propelled into the sky by sea spray and other aerosolization processes, making these particles light enough to be carried through the air.

Okochi warns that without a proactive fight against plastic air pollution, worsening climate change and new ecological risks could become a reality, “causing serious irreversible environmental damage in the future.”