Are we the last generation — or the first sustainable one? — Hannah Ritchie #sustainability #ActOnClimate

We have the opportunity to be the first generation to build a sustainable world but it is not inevitable, and we must get much faster.

Plastic Cloud: New Study Analyzes Airborne Microplastics in Clouds — Waseda University

According to the findings of a new study, AMPs were detected in cloud water samples from mountain summits in Japan, which confirms that they play a key role in rapid cloud formation. Credit: Hiroshi Okochi from Waseda University

Click the link to read the release on the Waseda University website:

Researchers from Japan examine the presence of microplastics in cloud water and their contribution to climate change

Plastic waste that accumulates on land eventually ends up in the ocean as microplastics. However, it is now speculated that microplastics are also present in the atmosphere, contained in clouds. In a new study, researchers analyzed cloud water samples from high-altitude mountains in Japan to ascertain the amount of microplastics in them. They also shed light on how these airborne particles influence cloud formation and their negative impact on the climate.

Plastic particles less than 5 mm in size are called “microplastics.” These tiny bits of plastic are often found in industrial effluents, or form from the degradation of bulkier plastic waste. Research shows that large amounts of microplastics are ingested or inhaled by humans and animals alike and have been detected in multiple organs such as lung, heart, blood, placenta, and feces. Ten million tons of these plastic bits end up in the ocean, released with the ocean spray, and find their way into the atmosphere. This implies that microplastics may have become an essential component of clouds, contaminating nearly everything we eat and drink via “plastic rainfall.” While most studies on microplastics have focused on aquatic ecosystems, few have looked into their impact on cloud formation and climate change as “airborne particles.”

In a new study led by Hiroshi Okochi, Professor at Waseda University, a group of Japanese researchers has explored the path of airborne microplastics (AMPs) as they circulate in the biosphere, adversely impacting human health, and the climate. Their study was recently published in the journal Environmental Chemistry Letters with contributions from co-authors Yize Wang from Waseda University and Yasuhiro Niida from PerkinElmer Japan Co. Ltd. “Microplastics in the free troposphere are transported and contribute to global pollution. If the issue of ‘plastic air pollution’ is not addressed proactively, climate change and ecological risks may become a reality, causing irreversible and serious environmental damage in the future,” explains Okochi.

To investigate the role of these tiny plastic particles in the troposphere and the atmospheric boundary layer, the team collected cloud water from the summit of Mount (Mt.) Fuji, south-eastern foothills of Mt. Fuji (Tarobo), and the summit of Mt. Oyama – regions at altitudes ranging between 1300-3776 meters. Using advanced imaging techniques like attenuated total reflection imaging and micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (µFTIR ATR imaging), the researchers determined the presence of microplastics in the cloud water, and examined their physical and chemical properties.

They identified nine different types of polymers and one type of rubber in the AMPs detected. Notably, most of the polypropylene that was detected in the samples was degraded and had carbonyl (C=O) and/or hydroxyl (OH) groups. The Feret diameters of these AMPs ranged between 7.1 – 94.6 µm, the smallest seen in the free troposphere. Moreover, the presence of hydrophilic (water loving) polymers in the cloud water was abundant, suggesting that they were removed as “cloud condensation nuclei.” These findings confirm that AMPs play a key role in rapid cloud formation, which may eventually affect the overall climate.

Accumulation of AMPs in the atmosphere, especially in the polar regions, could lead to significant changes in the ecological balance of the planet, leading to severe loss of biodiversity. Okochi concludes by saying “AMPs are degraded much faster in the upper atmosphere than on the ground due to strong ultraviolet radiation, and this degradation releases greenhouse gases and contributes to global warming. As a result, the findings of this study can be used to account for the effects of AMPs in future global warming projections.


Title of original paper : Airborne hydrophilic microplastics in cloud water at high altitudes and their role in cloud formation

DOI : 10.1007/s10311-023-01626-x

Journal : Environmental Chemistry Letters

Article Publication Date : August 14, 2023

Authors : Yize Wang1, Hiroshi Okochi1, Yuto Tani1, Hiroshi Hayami1, Minami Yukiya2, Naoya Katsumi2, Masaki Takeuchi3, Atsuyuki Sorimachi4, Yusuke Fujii5, Mizuo Kajino6, Kouji Adachi6, Yasuhiro Ishihara7, Yoko Iwamoto7, Yasuhiro Niida8

Affiliations :

1. Graduate School of Creative Science and Engineering, Waseda University
2. Faculty of Bioresources and Environmental Science, Ishikawa Prefectural University
3. Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Tokushima University
4. Faculty of Science and Engineering, Toyo University
5. Graduate School of Humanities and Sustainable System Sciences, Osaka Prefecture University
6. Meteorological Research Institute
7. Graduate School for Integrated Sciences for Life, Hiroshima University
8. PerkinElmer Japan Co. Ltd., Kanagawa, Japan

#Colorado Parks & Wildlife announces discovery of Rusty Crayfish in Lake Granby

Rusty crayfish. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Click the link to read the release on the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website (Rachael Gonzales):

GRAND LAKE, Colo. – Colorado Parks and Wildlife announces the discovery of rusty crayfish in Lake Granby, south of Grand Lake, Colorado.  

Multiple crayfish were found at Lake Granby during routine Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) sampling by CPW’s ANS Sampling and Monitoring team near Sunset Point campground, on Aug. 17. Samples were collected by the tam, preliminary species identification was performed at CPW’s ANS laboratory and suspect specimens were sent to Pisces Molecular in Boulder for genetics testing, where the samples were confirmed to be rusty crayfish on Aug. 31. 

CPW’s ANS Sampling and Monitoring team and area aquatic biologists set multiple crayfish traps around Lake Granby and other waters in close proximity to determine the extent of the rusty crayfish population in the area during the week of Sept. 11. Sampling traps were left overnight before being collected. Crayfish traps collected from the surrounding lakes did not contain crayfish; however, two traps from Lake Granby did contain rusty crayfish. A trap was set below the dam on the Colorado River in addition to the lakes. No crayfish were found in this trap upon removal.

“While this is not the first time we have found rusty crayfish west of the divide here in Colorado, it is the first detection in the Upper Colorado River basin,” said Robert Walters, CPW’s Invasive Species Program Manager. “While finding any invasive species is detrimental to our state’s aquatic ecosystems, finding rusty crayfish in Lake Granby, which feeds into the Colorado River, poses an even greater threat to the entire Colorado River Basin.” 

Rusty crayfish were first discovered in Yampa River and Catamount Reservoir in 2009.They are a la​rger, more aggressive freshwater crayfish, native to the Ohio River Basin. The rusty patches on either side of their body can sometimes identify them. They are believed to have been illegally introduced to Colorado by anglers ​​as bait.

The public is reminded by following these simple steps, they can prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species in Colorado.

  • Use only bait that is legal in Colorado! Never bring in live aquatic bait from another state.
  • Do not throw unused bait of any kind, back in the water alive.
  • Clean, Drain, and Dry your gear and water craft before heading to the next body of water.
  • Do not dispose of pets or unwanted aquarium plants or animals in natural systems. 

“When you follow these simple steps, you’re not just protecting the lake or river you’re recreating in, you’re protecting every water body in Colorado,” said Walters.

Crayfish of any species are not native west of the continental divide. CPW reminds the public the live transportation of all crayfish from waters west of the Continental Divide is prohibited. All crayfish caught west of the Continental Divide must be immediately killed (by removing the head from the thorax) and taken into possession, or immediately returned to the water from which they were taken. To learn more about the rusty crayfish and what the public can do to prevent the spread, visit our website.

ANS Sampling and Monitoring team members separating and identifying crayfish from Lake Granby during trapping efforts the week of Sept. 11. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Empty crayfish traps used in trapping efforts at multiple sites at Lake Granby, and additional bodies of water nearby. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife