SST Emissions Cut Stratospheric Ozone

By Lipkin, Richard | Science News, October 7, 1995 | Go to article overview

SST Emissions Cut Stratospheric Ozone


Lipkin, Richard, Science News


Responding to NASA's proposal to put 500 new high-speed civil transport (HSCT) planes into service by 2015, scientists have been estimating the potential impact of routine supersonic flight on Earth's stratospheric ozone (SN: 10/22/94, p.260). Now they have some hard data.

David W. Fahey, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colo., and his colleagues have measured exhaust emissions from a Concorde supersonic transport (SST) plane during high-altitude flight.

Traversing the exhaust trail of a Concorde 11 times during an Air France flight from Fiji to New Zealand last year, a NASA environmental research plane sampled the SST's exhaust, the researchers report in the Oct. 6 Science. The Concorde flew at 53,000 feet and at twice the speed of sound.

The scientists measured carbon dioxide, water vapor, reactive nitrogen and hydrogen, and sulfurous particles in the exhaust, finding more small particles than expected. The particles' abundance and size indicates that "sulfuric acid is produced from fuel sulfur more efficiently than expected after emission from the engine," Fahey's team says.

"If a fleet of HSCT aircraft produces particles at a rate comparable to that of the Concorde, increases in particle number and surface area would occur throughout the lower stratosphere in the Northern Hemisphere," they add. …

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