Humanity and the Weather

Air Pollution

How much pollution is generated by airplanes?

At any given moment in time, there are about 5,000 non-military aircraft plying the skies over the United States. It takes a tremendous amount of fuel to keep all these transports aloft, and the burned fuel results in exhaust similar to that coming from car engines: nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and soot. In addition, water vapors are released, which form ice crystals at high elevations commonly called contrails. Meteorologists believe that these contrails increase the formation of cirrus clouds, which may contribute to global warming.

Large tracts of land in the Amazon rain forest are regularly deforested to make way for farms, but, ironically, the soil is not very fertile.

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