Contrails from a jet. File Image / Pixabay.
The environmental impact of ship pollution in the open seas is the subject of a new study.
According to the UK's Manchester University (MU) ships emissions, containing sulphates and particulates, in open ocean show a strong potential to alter clouds' behaviour and pollute coastal areas.
When results were compared with ships measured in the English Channel (where emissions are controlled through regulation), the amount of particulates was significantly reduced compared to the open ocean.
Particulates, which comprise soot and sulphates, have long been known to alter the behaviour of clouds in the open ocean, creating lines of brighter clouds behind ships that can been seen from space, a phenomenon similar to contrails often seen behind aeroplanes.
Brighter clouds are partly caused by exhaust plumes containing pollutants from burning fossil fuels to power the ships.
The MU research forms part of wider project -- ACRUISE (Atmospheric Composition and Radiative forcing changes due to UN International Ship Emissions regulations) -- bringing together UK institutions to look at the effects of ship pollution.
Prior research tended to be laboratory-based or based on territorial water or ports where controls are already in place.
With data harvested from field work on a research aircraft flying directly through the exhaust plumes of cargo ships in the busy Atlantic shipping lanes off the Portuguese coast in 2019, the results are closer to what is actually happening, the university has said.
Next year, ACRUISE will return to repeat the measurements to assess how much of an impact the new controls have made. These will be combined with satellite data and atmospheric models to determine how much of a change this has made to air quality and climate.