Friday, January 30, 2009

Pole-to-pole flight finds CO2 piling up over Arctic

By Timothy Gardner

An undated handout photo from the Center for Northern Studies shows the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf disintegrating. REUTERS/Denis Sarrazin/Center for Northern Studies/Handout

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Scientists who flew a modified corporate jet from pole to pole to study how greenhouse gases move found carbon dioxide piling up over the Arctic, but also higher than expected levels of oxygen over the Antarctic.

The three-week, $4.5 million mission this month in a specially equipped Gulfstream V jet was the first of five flights planned over the next three years by a Harvard University-led project based in Colorado.

The research will help scientists understand how carbon is stored in the planet and how much carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is released by cars and factories burning fossil fuels, or by the burning of forests.

The jet, which flew from Colorado to the Arctic and back south to the Hawaiian Islands toward Antarctica, is equipped to suck in air samples and test them in a laboratory aboard.

Initial observations point to a carbon dioxide build up over the Arctic, which may be due to industrial pollution and burning of trees over the last few centuries, scientists told reporters on Thursday in a teleconference about the mission.

Pole-to-pole flight finds CO2 piling up over Arctic

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