Where Does Pollution Come From?

Introduction  You can use the Black Marble to see where high populations with electricity are.  Carbon aerosol is basically soot produced by low-tech burning.  Sulfate aerosol is a type of pollution caused by high-tech energy production.  By overlaying these datasets you can see where these different types of pollution come from and why.
As a trend, societies go from low-tech burning (done for 1000s of years) to more sophisticated forms of energy production.  In that light, the US is the most advanced, Africa is the least advanced, and Asia is somewhere in the middle.
What do you think these same datasets would look like as we move to more Solar, Wind, and Hydroelectric energy production?

BlackMarble.jpg Black Marble 2012  

The Black Marble 2012 shows lights at night.  Since they are mostly electric lights they represent places that have both high populations and sophisticated energy production. 

Check out these three locations:

A) Eastern US: Lots of lights.  High population. Sophisticated energy.

B) Central Africa: Dark.  Even though there is a high population, not that much electricity.  Much of the energy is from wood burning fires and low tech sources.

C) Asia: Lots of lights. High population and sophisticated energy

(Dataset 415)

AerosolBlackCarbonOpticalThickness.jpgAerosol Black Carbon Optical Thickness 

Next, overlay Aerosol Black Carbon Optical Thickness.  The purple swirls show where carbon soot is.  (Note: if you drag the transparency slider about half way, you can see both the carbon aerosol and the night lights showing through.)

A) Eastern US: Lots of lights.  Even though there are lots of people, we have pretty much cleaned up the air (compared to other places.)  Also, coal power plants have scrubbers to filter out this type of pollution before it gets into the air.

B) Central Africa: There are lots of people here and they are burning things which put out a lot of soot.

C) Asia: Although they have lots of electricity generation, they have not yet cleaned up their act.  So we see lots of soot in the air.

(Dataset 28)

AerosolBlackCarbonSulfateOpticalThickness.jpgAerosol Black Carbon and   Sulfate Optical Thickness -

Now, turn OFF the Aerosol Black Carbon layer and turn ON theAerosol Black Carbon and Sulfate Optical Thicknesslayer. This shows the soot in purple, as before, and sulfate pollution in green.  Again, you can slide the transparency so the night lights shine through.

A) Eastern US: Lots of green, meaning sulfate pollution.  This is a byproduct of cars and newer power plants.  So, even if there is no soot, there is still plenty of pollution.

B) Central Africa: Almost no sulfates.  That's because there energy sources are the less sophisticated types.  But lots of purple showing soot.

C) Asia: You see both soot and sulfate pollution.  This is consistent with both newer and older energy sources.  Also, lots of cars mean lots of sulfate pollution.

(Dataset 30)

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