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Monday, October 25, 2010

Space tourism can intensify climate modify

Have $200,000 to spend on space travel, Before you book your seat into the cosmos, you may want to know about the potential impact back on Earth. It finds about the soot emitted from rockets could become a significant contributor to climate change in coming decades.

Researchers funded by NASA and the Aerospace Corporation, offers the first detailed look at how rockets using hydrocarbon fuel might affect the planet's climate. They examined the impact of soot (or black carbon) as well as carbon dioxide emissions from 1,000 rocket flights per year -- the approximate number cited in business plans for space travel in 2020. They find soot is the bigger worry, not CO2.

The response of the climate system to a relatively small input of black carbon is surprising, and our results show particular climate system sensitivity to the type of particles that rockets emit.

Researchers say the soot emitted by rockets, unlike that from coal power plants or jet aircraft, can remain in the atmosphere for years. They project the soot could cool the earth's surface by as much as 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit but warm Antarctica by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. They expect the world's equatorial regions could lose about 1% of ozone while its poles could gain 10%.

The team based its work on reasonable assumptions about rocket chemistry and atmospheric physics. Yet we are unsure about actual rocket emissions, adding that measurements in actual rocket plumes and further climate modeling will be needed to gain confidence in these results.

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