Trillions of Microscopic Black Tar Balls
In last week’s Scientific American article by David Biello entitled, “Why Carbon is the Best Marker for the New Human Epic,” the author reveals that humans are leaving behind telltale signs of an addiction to fossil fuels in the form of “spheroidal carbonaceous particles” (SCP) that will last millions of years into the future.
Scientists researching over 4 billion years of earth core samples are finding that fly ash and other fossil fuel-related pollutants are blackening soil samples. These pollutants have been accumulating for the past couple of centuries but didn’t start showing up in the geological record in significant amounts until about the 1950s.
Researchers also used field-emission scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy to analyze aerosol samples. Using these methods, they have determined that spherical carbonaceous particles, or tarballs, are 10 times more abundant than soot.
Biello cites Grame Swindles, who wrote a paper called “Spheroidal Carbonaceous Particles are a Defining Stratigraphic Marker for the Anteroposterior” in Nature.com’s Scientific Reports. In that article, Swindles said, “In the very top of these sediment cores we take, we get these fly ash indicators,” that are the result of the unbridled use of fossil fuels, the production of plastics and the existence of a human population that has ballooned to over 7 billion people.
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