by Allen Stroud
NASA Eyes Effects of a Giant Cloud
This morning, at a press conference in Washington DC, NASA scientists stated that the new South Pacific 'smog cloud' is not, as was previously believed, a result of pollution or pollution side effects.
Experts first began to investigate the building haze over the Mariana Islands late last year, during the winter months, but inclement weather conditions prevented them comparing their land-based analysis with an extended study at sea. Now, however, enough data has been acquired to determine the cloud’s composition, and the results were quite unexpected.
“We’ve detected large amounts of an organic composite,” Professor Abdul Nawabi of the Goddard Space Flight Center announced. “So far, the sample does not perfectly match any of the DNA records we’ve been comparing it with, but we have found small matches, which suggests we’re getting there in understanding what’s going on.”
Initially, experts had thought the new phenomenon was similar to the seasonal “Asian Brown Cloud” which forms in the Indian Ocean and is known to be the byproduct of industrial pollution in the region. Previous studies have noted that the brown cloud has global environmental effects. The brown cloud is a persistent, but moving, air mass characterized by a mixed-particle haze, typically brown in color. It also contains other pollution, such as ozone. Its composition was determined using satellite data along with an extended field study using weather balloons and onsite research vessels.
However, the Mariana cloud is darker and has formed in a region further away from the heavy industry sites associated with the brown cloud. This new discovery indicates its source must lie somewhere else.
“We’d rather not be speculating at this stage,” Professor Nawabi said, when asked about the cloud’s origin. “But we are factoring in the possibility of volcanic activity in the ocean at a depth below the range of our instruments.”
The Mariana Islands lie to the east of the Mariana Trench, believed by scientists to be the deepest underwater region in the world, with a previously recorded ocean floor at approximately 11,000 metres or 36,000 feet. The trench is part of a border between two tectonic plates and a popular location for deep sea exploration and research.