Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Commercial Ships Spew Half As Much Particulate Pollution As World's Cars

Date:
February 27, 2009
Source:
University of Colorado at Boulder
Summary:
Commercial ships emit almost half as much particulate pollutants into the air globally as the total amount released by the world's cars, according to a new study.

Container ship. Commercial ships emit almost half as much particulate pollutants into the air globally as the total amount released by the world's cars, according to a new study.
Credit: iStockphoto

Commercial ships emit almost half as much particulate pollutants into the air globally as the total amount released by the world's cars, according to a new study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Related Articles


The study is the first to provide a global estimate of maritime shipping's total contribution to air particle pollution based on direct emission measurements. The authors estimate ships emit about 1,100 tons of particle pollution globally each year.

Ship pollutants affect both global climate and the health of people living along coastlines, according to the study authors. The findings appear online the week of Feb. 23 in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

"Since more than 70 percent of shipping traffic takes place within 250 miles of the coastline, this is a significant health concern for coastal communities," said lead study author Daniel Lack, a researcher with the NOAA-supported CU Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences based at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder.

Earlier research by one of the study's co-authors, James Corbett of the University of Delaware, linked particle pollution to premature deaths among coastal populations.

Commercial ships emit both particle pollution and carbon dioxide, but they have opposite effects on the climate, said the researchers. The particles have a global cooling effect that is at least five times greater than the global warming effect from the ships' CO2 emissions.

The particles affect both climate and health, said the researchers. CO2 from ships makes up roughly 3 percent of all human-emitted CO2 and almost 30 percent of smog-forming nitrogen oxide gases.

During summer 2006, Lack and colleagues aboard the NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown analyzed the exhaust from over 200 commercial vessels, including cargo ships, tankers and cruise ships in the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel. The researchers also examined the chemistry of particles in ship exhaust to understand what makes ships such hefty polluters.

Ships emit sulfates, the same particles associated with diesel-engine cars and trucks and which have resulted in tighter regulations regarding on-road vehicle fuel standards, according to the research team. Sulfate emissions from ships vary with the concentration of sulfur in ship fuel, the authors found.

Globally, fuel sulfur content is capped under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. As a result of the cap, some ships use "cleaner," low-sulfur fuels, while others continue to use the high-sulfur counterparts.

But sulfates make up just under half of shipping's total particle emissions, according to the NOAA-CU study. Organic pollutants and sooty, black carbon -- which make up the other half of emissions -- are not directly targeted by today's regulations. A 2008 study by Lack's team focused exclusively on soot.

Emissions of non-sulfate particles depend on the operating speed of the engine and the amount of lubricating oil needed to deal with wear and tear from burning less-refined fuels, according to the researchers. "Fortunately, engines burning 'cleaner,' low-sulfur fuels tend to require less complex lubricants," said Corbett. "So the sulfur fuel regulations have the indirect effect of reducing the organic particles emitted."

One surprising result of burning low-sulfur fuels was that while total particle emissions diminish, the time the remaining particles spend in the air appears to increase. It's while they're airborne that particles pose a risk to human health and affect climate, according to the study.

Lack and colleagues found that the organic and black carbon portion of ship exhaust is less likely to form cloud droplets. As a result, the particles remain suspended for longer periods of time before being washed to the ground through precipitation.

NOAA-supported Cooperative Institutes are academic and nonprofit research institutions that demonstrate the highest level of performance and conduct research that supports NOAA's Mission Goals and Strategic Plan.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Colorado at Boulder. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel A. Lack et al. Particulate emissions from commercial shipping: Chemical, physical, and optical properties. Journal of Geophysical Research, 2009; 114D00F04 DOI: 10.1029/2008JD011300

Cite This Page:

University of Colorado at Boulder. "Commercial Ships Spew Half As Much Particulate Pollution As World's Cars." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226131707.htm>.
University of Colorado at Boulder. (2009, February 27). Commercial Ships Spew Half As Much Particulate Pollution As World's Cars. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226131707.htm
University of Colorado at Boulder. "Commercial Ships Spew Half As Much Particulate Pollution As World's Cars." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226131707.htm (accessed April 19, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nervous Return to Everest a Year After Deadly Avalanche

Nervous Return to Everest a Year After Deadly Avalanche

AFP (Apr. 18, 2015) In the Himalayan town of Lukla, excitement mingles with fear as mountaineers make their way up to Everest a year after an avalanche killed 16 guides and triggered an unprecedented shut-down of the world&apos;s highest peak. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
L.A. Water Cops Remind Residents of Water Conservation

L.A. Water Cops Remind Residents of Water Conservation

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 18, 2015) "Water cops" in Los Angeles remind the public about water conservation methods amid California&apos;s prolonged drought. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Planet Defence Conference Tackles Asteroid Threat

Planet Defence Conference Tackles Asteroid Threat

AFP (Apr. 17, 2015) Scientists gathered at a European Space Agency (ESA) facility outside Rome this week for the Planetary Defence Conference 2015 to discuss how to tackle the potential threat from asteroids hitting Earth. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gulf Scarred, Resilient 5 Years After BP Spill

Gulf Scarred, Resilient 5 Years After BP Spill

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Five years after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, splotches of oil still dot the seafloor and wads of tarry petroleum-smelling material hide in pockets in the marshes of Barataria Bay. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins