Sulfur Dioxide Initiates Global Climate Change in Four Ways
New Reseach by Dr. Peter L. Ward in Thin Solid Films
In the article ‘Sulfur Dioxide Initiates Global Climate Change in Four Ways’, published by Elsevier in Thin Solid Films, Dr. Peter L. Ward of Teton Tectonics, USA, observed that the highest rates of volcanic activity in the past 46,000 years occurred at the same time as the highest rates of global warming after the last ice age. Global warming occurs when too much sulfur dioxide gas is released by volcanoes or by humans burning fossil fuels.
Ward then observed that the rate of increase of both methane and temperature during the 20th century tracked changes in the amounts of sulfur dioxide emitted by man. Human sulfur emissions peaked around 1980 as international efforts to reduce acid rain took effect. The rate of increase of methane in the atmosphere began to decrease by 1990. Increases in methane and global temperature approached zero by 2000 and have remained low until present.
“These observations make sense,” Ward says, “when you realize that sulfur dioxide is changing the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere.” A dirty atmosphere warms the earth. A clean atmosphere cools the earth. The atmosphere cleans itself by oxidizing greenhouse gases and other pollutants, causing their molecules to become larger and therefore to fall out or be rained out of the atmosphere.
When human sulfur emissions decreased in 1980, it took 20 years for enough oxidants to be generated to decrease the methane concentration enough to stabilize global temperatures. The decrease in sulfur emissions in the 1980s to reduce acid rain stopped global warming. Global temperatures have been nearly constant since 2000. “By reducing acid rain, we accidentally reduced global warming, however the good news,” says Ward, “is that we now know how to reduce global warming. We can increase power consumption while decreasing sulfur emissions.”
What about carbon dioxide? During the 20th century carbon dioxide has been increasing nearly linearly and has not yet levelled off in a manner similar to methane and temperature. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas compounding global warming, but it is not the initiator of climate change. Ward used the concentration of sulfate ions in snow layers in Greenland to estimate yearly volcanic and human sulfur dioxide emissions over the past 100,000 years. Recent concentrations are similar to the highest concentrations observed during the few thousand years when the world warmed suddenly out of the last ice age. The rapid increase in recent concentrations cannot be attributed to increased volcanic activity but correlates closely with increases in known sulfur emissions from human burning of fossil fuels.
The groundbreaking research, published in Thin Solid Films, an international Elsevier journal which serves scientists and engineers working in the fields of thin-film synthesis, characterization, and applications can be found online via ScienceDirect.
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Karien van Wetering
Publisher, Condensed Matter Physics
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