Jet Planes were very exotic in 1950 and still glamorous in the 60’s.  Propeller planes were already using turbine engines rather than piston engines.

I moved my family in 1966 to live under the jet plane approach to Los Angeles Airport.  We lived in that house for over 50 years.  We often watched in awe as planes from the east flew overhead with flaps and wheels down and engines whining as they flew on to land at LAX 20 miles away.  Others, arriving from the west made U-turns overhead to enter the flight path.  Their elevation at our house was probably  2 to 4,000 feet above us.

There was a darker side to the glamour however.  A white paper towel would turn black when wiped over a counter.  Each day, counter tops which appeared clean, were re-coated with black soot which settled from the exhaust.  The particles are extremely small – not visible even with the most powerful optical microscopes.  A single particle is not visible under an optical microscope and a clump looks like black paint. Powerful electron microscopes are necessary and particles must be pre-coated with a gold film in order to be filmed.  I paid two inspection laboratories with electron microscopes, to provide pictures of my samples of soot; both failed.  The second one assured me after their attempt failed, that their microscope could photograph particles as small as 2 to 3 nanometers if they prepared the samples by coating them first with gold and then scanning for several hours; the cost would be over a thousand dollars per image with no guarantee for success of any one image.  I postponed the opportunity to spend thousands of dollars of savings on the possibility of seeing a photo or two.

With that much soot, I was concerned about the health effects on my family and residents inhaling the soot for over 50 years ?

There was nothing notable in the 14 adults or their 15 children who grew up in this immediate area.  No asthma, no missed work or missed school days or any illness.  No pulmonary issues. Medical reports claiming serious medical problems from fine particulate soot should be scrutinized very carefully for other vectors.

How is this jet engine soot formed?

Picture in your mind, jet fuel burning in one of the several combustion chambers of a jet engine.  It is a microscopic world.

Jet fuel is injected at great pressure,  20,000 to 25,000 psi, through small nozzles to “atomize” the fuel into droplets. Higher pressures create smaller size drops.  Current development of higher pressure pumps and nozzles claim particles so small no soot is formed.  Size of droplets in current engines is very small, almost like the dust we see floating in a shaft of sunlight in our houses. Each small droplet enters a white hot radiant chamber along with compressed air.

The outer layer of this miniature oil droplet starts to boil immediately – and starts burning – creating an inert shell of CO2 and water vapor around the droplet.  This inert shell is a barrier to oxygen reaching the droplet and impedes further burning.  The inert shell becomes thicker around the ever smaller droplet. It is so small it floats with the current, not burning completely, but cracking into carbon and hydrogen.  Hydrogen gas created by cracking burns readily, but the carbon does not and leaves the engine as an extremely small particle; probably not round and sometimes clustered with other small particles like a small bunch of grapes.

This means that very nearly every droplet of oil creates at least one carbon particle, and most will leave the engine unburned.  As stated earlier, 2 million to 3 million particles have been measured in single cubic centimeters of jet engine exhaust.   Jet engine fuel creates an exhaust that is lighter than air due to the water vapor formed from burning hydrogen.  It rises even higher than the 40,000 foot elevation of cruising jet planes.

While carbon particles are heavier than air, they are actually very light and very small.  The hot mix of CO2, water vapor, nitrogen and carbon particles is lighter than air and floats upward.  The study of jet engine exhaust reported soot particle diameters between 2 and 60 nanometers;  (equal to 0.000000002 to 0.000000060 inches in diameter).  From 40,000 feet, they have 7 to 8 miles to settle before reaching earth.  Rather than settle, they flow toward the poles with atmospheric currents at 40,000 feet.  The diagram from Chapter 4 is repeated below.

Air currents north of the equator, where planes are shown flying in the diagram, must carry much of the soot northward toward Greenland and the North Pole.

Exhaust from piston engines on the ground was shown to also be lighter than air and rises carrying the soot upward to join the jet plane soot.

What problems does this soot cause?  Actually two problems!

The first problem.  Even while nanoparticles are floating, they are a black solid that absorbs nearly all sunlight that strikes each of the untold millions of particles. Heat   They will get hotter.  Heat transfer dictates that temperature of the particle is increased by sunlight and that air in contact with those particles is also heated.

Jet engines burn 6,000,000 barrels of oil a day.  A barrel of fuel weighs 450 impede;  that amounts to 2,700,000,000 lbs of fuel a day (2.7 billion lbs.) and a near infinite number of particles.

Scientists have tried to calculate the impact of this carbon on global warming.  One four year study, a 232 page report in the Journal of Geophysical Research, January 2013,  (e360yale.edu) is summarized by Carl Zimmer, January 17, 2013.

The report estimates that carbon soot can cause more warming than that attributed to the CO2  blanket;  1.1 watts minimum to 2.1 watts vs the 1.56 watts attributed to CO2.  This is over 30% more.  The report does not mention jet fuel as a source of carbon released at 40,000 feet or the ground sources generating low density exhaust that rises to join the jet exhaust.  The extent of this first problem, heating of the atmosphere, is not really understood. More research is required.

The second problem with this soot!

Air currents carry the soot northward to Greenland and the North Pole and then downward to the surface of the ice.  Once on the ice it absorbs more sunlight than soot-free ice.  On ice, it increases melting rate several times.

Greenland is experiencing many miles of “black ice”.

It would indeed be useful to know where the soot comes from so the problem could be solved.  The author has not found a chemical analysis of the soot.

Each Electron microscope photo of nano-particles taken from the ice would be quite expensive.  Each electron microscope photo might cost over a thousand dollars but this is a pittance compared with the knowledge developed.

A simple chemical test would show the soot is not from burning wood as has been speculated.  Wood ash contains calcium and other metals which are easily detected by a simple chemical analysis.  Photographs could be compared with photos of particles from jet engine exhaust.

Instead of an analysis, many millions of dollars are spent measuring the reduced reflectance of the black ice.  Without the soot there would be nothing to measure.

Is the soot caused by burning forest fires?

Wood smoke from a hot fire is normally white, not black.  Further, smoke plumes from the Edmonton, Canada fires were photographed from space; the plume was carried by winds directly south over central states of the US, then East over New England and out to sea toward Scotland.  The plume from this fire never passed over even southern Greenland.  A statement that the soot is forest fire ash is an uninformed opinion and usually wrong.

Dark Snow

Photo by Dr. Jason Box

Are there solutions to the soot problem?  Yes!

As mentioned above, development of even higher pressure pumps and injectors, from 25,000 to 35,000 psi can create particles so small that the droplet is entirely burned; no soot is formed. If true, this would be extremely helpful.  For more images Google  Greenland + black ice + photos.

Requiring all engines to be equipped with this high pressure system would eliminate the soot and by reducing unburned fuel, improve economics.

This could be accomplished very quickly and should be pursued.

Next, oxygen within a fuel molecule causes formation of CO2 gas and water vapor inside the

Global and air Circulation cells

burning droplet.  The gases expand explosively and break up the droplet for faster burning without coking. This type of molecule exists in biodiesel fuel.  Blends of biodiesel and jet-fuel mixtures have been flight tested satisfactorily.   Biodiesel has been proven to be fire safe, and cleaner burning but an optimum ratio has not been determined.  Production of more biodiesel should be encouraged.

There may be a mechanical factor as well.

Changing the size and shape of the combustion chamber may change coking.

Diesel engines and gasoline engines have made improvements by changing the shape of the combustion chamber and location and methods of fuel entry.  Similar changes could improve combustion in turbine engines.

In conclusion, there is much that can be done to reduce melting of ice from soot.

Environmentally responsible corporations should lead the world – this can be done.

While reducing heat from Magma beneath sea ice is beyond human capability, soot can be reduced quickly and relatively inexpensively.  Reducing soot will also reduce absorption of solar energy in the atmosphere and on seas and earth.

Chapter 6 will compare the Antarctic continent to the Arctic Sea area.

Ice on East Antarctica is not melting; ice on West Antarctica’s shore above volcanoes is melting.

Also, shelf ice over open sea is also melting from below.

In Chapter One – Melting Arctic Ice with magma as a source of heat was discussed as well as the time connection to magma but no connection to CO2 concentration.

In Chapter Two, there is the connection of CO2 concentration to gas fuels, rather than coal.

In Chapter Three, the effect of the density of stack gas from burning coal is discussed, and the impact of sulfur and nitrogen from coal on lakes is presented.

In Chapter Four, the chemistry of liquid hydrocarbon fuels causes all to create a stack gas lighter than air.  Availability and use of liquid and gas fuels rather than coal, caused the dramatic rise in atmospheric CO2.

Reducing the sulfur content of stack gas from coal plants provided a successful solution to the acid gas and “acid rain”  problem in New England.

This Chapter Five tackled the soot problem which plagues Greenland and contributes to global warming.

Chapter Six will compare Antarctica and its massive amount of ice and concerns with its polar opposite, the North Pole.

Stay tuned.