Ammonia Detected In The Earth's Upper Troposphere For The First Time

First Posted: Dec 13, 2016 03:04 AM EST

The scientists traced ammonia in the upper troposphere, which is the lowest atmospheric layer of Earth, for the first time. They discovered increased amounts of ammonia (NH3) between 12 and 15 km height in the Asian monsoon.

The findings of the discovery were published in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal. It was led by researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. The find indicates that this gas produces the formation of aerosols, tiniest particles that might contribute to cloud formation, according to Science Daily.

The team used the MIPAS infrared spectrometer to detect the ammonia in the upper troposphere. They said that they have presented the first evidence of ammonia being present in Earth's upper troposphere above 6.2 miles (10 km). They further said that the region and period of detection are confined to the Asian summer monsoon system. They detected a concentration of ammonia of up to 33 pptv (33 NH3 molecules per trillion air molecules).

Ammonia or also referred to as "azane" is a chemical compound of nitrogen and hydrogen. It is a colorless gas with a pungent smell. This gas originates from agricultural processes such as from livestock farming and fertilization. Currently, the highest ammonia emissions are in Southeast China and North India.

Once the ammonia is released as an agricultural emission in an increased level, the local ecosystem is polluted and could trigger the formation of new clouds. This could also induce existing clouds in the above atmosphere and has a role in the aerosol formation in the troposphere.

NASA explained that aerosols could modify the size of cloud particles and alter how the clouds reflect and absorb sunlight. This leads to fog and much redder sunrises and sunsets.

According to Science Alert, the accumulation of aerosols in the troposphere could have a cooling effect. This could make up for the human-caused greenhouse effect.

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