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Debris from Kuwaiti fires travels far.

Sulfur and soot from the Kuwaiti oil fires apparently floated clear around the globe, much farther than atmospheric researchers had thought likely, according to a team of scientists who detected unusual particles in the air over Wyoming last spring.

In the Feb. 21 Geophysical Research Letters, Terry Deshler of the University of Wyoming in Laramie and David J. Hofmann of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colo., report that between March and June, balloon-borne sensors detected broad sheets of microscopic particles in concentrations about 10 times higher than normal. The largest of the particles measured roughly 6 microns in diameter, about one-tenth the width of a human hair. They appeared in layers high in the atmosphere, between 7 and 12

kilometers in altitude.

In the same journal, Patrick J. Sheridan and Russell C. Schnell of the University of Colorado at Boulder and their colleagues report on electron microscopic analyses of some of the captured particles. Almost all were sulfuric acid droplets, while 1 percent were clumps of carbon-rich soot particles that resembled soot collected over Kuwait.

Researchers who traveled to Kuwait during the fires reported that smoke plumes rose only about 6 kilometers in height and that the particles were relatively large. Such factors led scientists to expect the debris would drop out of the atmosphere before traveling far--no more than a few thousand kilometers. But Deshler and his colleagues believe the particles they detected over Laramie did indeed come from the Kuwaiti fires. They note the blazes produced an enormous amount of sulfur dioxide, which turns into sulfuric acid in the atmosphere. Deshler suggests that thunderstorms over India could have lofted the fire particles into the upper atmosphere. From there, the particles could have ridden the jet stream in a quick trip across the Pacific. Deshler and Hofmann calculate that air sampled over Laramie on March 25 would have passed over Kuwait nine days previously.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 7, 1992
Words:318
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