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Pollution in the stratosphere is clearly visible in this image in the thin red line.
Courtesy of NASA

Pollution from Asia Circles Globe at Stratospheric Heights

Air pollution can get high in the atmosphere Ė high above most of the clouds you see in the sky.

Scientists are finding air pollution more than 20 miles above the surface of the Earth. Thatís in the stratosphere layer of the atmosphere. Once the air pollution is in the stratosphere, it spreads out and travels around the Earth. It can stay up there for several years.

Where is this pollution coming from? Scientists say the source is south Asia. Thatís a place with lots of air pollution. Some of the pollution is from smokestacks at factories and power plants. Other pollution comes from burning trees and other plants to clear land.

The scientists have found that in this area of the world, air moves upward during summertime stormy weather. They have been studying measurements taken from satellites and found a pattern of more pollution in the stratosphere each summer for the past several years. In the future there might be even more pollution because the number of factories and power plants that release pollution in China and other Asian countries is growing.

How does this pollution high in the sky affect the planet? More research is needed to answer that question. But we do know that some types of pollution can cause small particles called aerosols to form in the stratosphere. Aerosols affect the ozone layer and climate.

Last modified May 21, 2010 by Lisa Gardiner.

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