UCL Department of Geography


Dr Eloise Marais Has the Most-Read Article on Air Pollution from the Space Sector

21 March 2024

Dr Eloise Marais’ paper, "Impact of Rocket Launch and Space Debris Air Pollutant Emissions on Stratospheric Ozone and Global Climate," has become the most-read article in Wiley's Earth's Future journal.

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Collaborating with former UCL Geography Research Fellow Robert Ryan, alongside researchers from the University of Cambridge and MIT, Dr Marais' research explores the environmental impact of space debris and rocket launches.

The authors of the paper, titled, "Impact of rocket launch and space debris air pollutant emissions on stratospheric ozone and global climate," developed a dataset of air pollutant emissions from global rocket launches and burn-up of space debris, embedding these in a state-of-the-art model representing the complex atmospheric processes.

Their findings indicate that these pollution sources threaten to undermine progress achieved in repairing the ozone layer by the Montreal Protocol, humanity’s most successful international environmental agreement.

They also found evidence suggesting that the space sector is already altering global climate from the Earth's surface to the upper layers of the atmosphere.

The research was funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant awarded to Dr Marais.

She said, “There are no environmental policies in place to mitigate environmental damage from rockets and space junk, necessitating modelling studies to quantify and project the effects.

“The interest this paper has generated shows that this is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed.”

Dr Marais' research explores the complex interactions between pollutants emitted during space activities and their effects on Earth's atmosphere.

Through detailed analysis and advanced modelling techniques, her work provides insights into the implications of space debris and rocket emissions on stratospheric ozone levels and global climate dynamics.

The attention the paper has received is in large part facilitated by UCL’s transformative agreement with Wiley.

The group is next investigating the environmental damage caused by air pollution from megaconstellation missions.

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