Nitrogen Dioxide Sense and Nonsense

By Willis Eschenbach – Re-Blogged From WUWT

According to the National Center for Biotechnology information, we have:

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2). A highly poisonous gas. Exposure produces inflammation of lungs that may only cause slight pain or pass unnoticed, but resulting edema several days later may cause death. (From Merck, 11th ed) Nitrogen dioxide is a major atmospheric pollutant that is able to absorb UV light that does not reach the earth’s surface.

And the US Environmental Protection Agency says:

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is one of a group of highly reactive gases known as oxides of nitrogen or nitrogen oxides (NOx). Other nitrogen oxides include nitrous acid and nitric acid. NO2 is used as the indicator for the larger group of nitrogen oxides. NO2 primarily gets in the air from the burning of fuel.

These days, we can track the sources of NO2 worldwide using the TEMIS satellite data. And here is what one of the many groups looking at the data has to say, in their map entitled “NO2 Hotspots” (click to enlarge):

These people are tying the NO2 concentrations to “thermal power plants”, meaning those fired by coal, oil or gas. And from inspection of the map, it sure looks like the power plants are to blame.

But upon closer examination, there are some strange things going on with this map. First off, the biggest source of NO2 seems to be … Angola, shown in the upper part of the graphic below.

I haven’t found anyone who has explained that hot-spot in Angola. However, someone probably has discussed it, I just couldn’t come up with an explanation.

However, there’s something that is even more curious. This is that the map-makers are playing fast and loose with the power-plant data. For example, here’s their map of Australia:

Now, if we’re to believe the map-makers, there are only about ten thermal power plants in all of Australia. Nor is this the only oddity. Much of Russia is shown as having no thermal power plants, and the same is true of other countries.

So what is going on here? Well, the satellite data is being used for political purposes. The map-makers are doing their best to convince us that power plants are the main source of nitrogen dioxide. But in fact, half or more of the NO2 in the air comes from transportation—cars, trucks, and buses. And although you have to look carefully at the map to see it, many thermal power plants don’t put out much NO2.

However, noting all of that would be detrimental to the map-makers’ goal of vilifying fossil-fuel-fired electricity, and thus advancing the cause of the expensive and intermittent alternate sources, wind and solar. It is advocacy cleverly disguised as science.

And who made the map? Well … on the map itself, it doesn’t say. And there’s no link to their home page … me, I don’t trust folks who don’t sign their work.

But when I go to the home page, by chopping off all but the first part of the URL, I arrive here and I find the following …

This is my shocked face …



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