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October 27 2012

Circumnavigating The World To Map The Polluted Skies

In the atmosphere, soot traps heat like carbon dioxide does. But unlike CO2, soot stays near its source and falls to Earth in weeks, so itís considered low-hanging fruit in the fight against global warming. The first step to reducing atmospheric soot is to find it, which scientists have been doing since the 1980s with a particle-measuring tool called an aethalometer.

A tube catches outside air and sends it to the instrumentís main box, where the air passes through a particle-catching filter. The device shines light of different wavelengths through the filter, and a sensor and processor analyze how the particles block light. This reveals their concentration and their origin: whether they came from fossil fuel burning or wood fires.

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