Artificial Intelligence: Reducing Sulfur In Shipping Fuel Cut Sea Air Emissions (NASA AI Model)
The International Marine Organization (IMO) in 2020 significantly curtailed sulfur content in fuel oil for ships traveling outside emission-control areas.
An AI model built by NASA confirmed that an IMO move to slash sulfur content in shipping fuel paid off in spades, because it led to the lowest air pollution levels at sea in 2020. However, part of the credit must also go to the reduced shipping traffic volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (The Register)
NASA AI model
Researchers built an AI model to analyze shipping tracks in 17 years of images taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Earth-observation Aqua satellite from 2003 to 2020.
The AI detected patterns from the clouds formed when pollutant aerosols emitted from ships mix with water vapor. These clouds are therefore typically brighter compared to the other normal weather clouds found at sea.
The analysis showed that ships started generating less air pollution in 2020, when the level of sulfur in fuel was limited by the IMO 2020 rule.
“Ship-track density experiences strong reductions in every detected major shipping lane compared to climatology and reaches record lows in the nearly 20-year data record,” the researchers wrote in a paper published in Science.
“Annual mean ship-track density decreases by 50 percent or more in five major shipping lanes compared to the climatological mean. The decline is even steeper if compared to 2019,” the research paper said.
The findings appear to validate the IMO’s contention that the sulfur cut would result in lower emissions by ships.
The move was predicted by IMO to cut sulfur oxide emissions by 77 per cent – equivalent to 8.5 million metric tonnes.
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