Who knew? Bird poop cools the Arctic atmosphere

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Bird poop cools the Arctic atmosphere

It turns out bird poop helps cool the Arctic.

That’s according to new research from Colorado State University atmospheric scientists, who are working to better understand key components of Arctic climate systems.

Publishing in Nature Communications and featured by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, researchers present evidence linking ammonia emissions from summertime Arctic seabird-colony excrement, called guano, to newly formed atmospheric aerosol particles.

These particles can in turn influence Arctic cloud properties and their effects on climate.

Clouds play a key role in modulating Arctic temperature; thus, understanding factors that influence clouds is essential, a researcher says.

Central to the development of clouds is the availability of cloud condensation nuclei – small atmospheric particles around which water can condense.

Using a combination of observations and computer modeling, researchers determined that migratory-seabird colonies have a definitive influence on atmospheric particles and clouds in the pristine summertime Arctic.

They report the presence of summertime bursts of atmospheric particles linked to ammonia emissions from seabird-colony guano.

These particles can spread throughout the Arctic, fostering cloud-droplet formation, and in turn reflect sunlight back to space for a net cooling effect.

“This newly identified and fascinating ecological-atmospheric connection highlights the interconnectedness of the many components of Earth’s climate system,” Pierce said.

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Citation: Croft B, et al. (2016). Contribution of Arctic seabird-colony ammonia to atmospheric particles and cloud-albedo radiative effect. Nature Communications, 7: 13444. DOI:10.1038/ncomms13444.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to Colorado State University.