Scientists Have Identified the Cleanest Air in the World

One of the most often-cited reasons for going outside is “to get a breath of fresh air.” For most of us, that might mean heading to our favorite trail to escape the cacophony of the urban sprawl. Once we’ve left the traffic and noise behind, we often find the air to be cleaner and more refreshing. But if you’ve ever wondered how far you would have to go to find the cleanest air on the planet, you’re in luck. A team fo researchers from Colorado State University have identified the location of the freshest air on the planet, and unsurprisingly most of us will have to travel quite a long distance to get to it.

According to their research, which was recently published in an academic journal, the scientists have determined that the cleanest air on Earth is found in the Southern Ocean, surrounding the continent of Antarctica. Obviously this makes a lot of sense, as there are only a handful of permanent human settlements to be found in that vast region, with very few vehicles, no industrial production, and only the passing of ships through the area to mark the presence of man at all. For a large part of the year, the weather is so bad in fact that no one travels there at all, with only a skeleton crew manning most of the research stations throughout the area.

Researchers studied the cloud cover that was found throughout the Southern Ocean and discovered that they were almost entirely free of any outside contaminants. Those clouds didn’t contain any residue of fossil fuels for instance, nor did they reveal traces of fertilizers or human waste. All of those items are found in the clouds that pass by overhead in other parts of the world, but in the Antarctic—and the vast ocean that surrounds it—they are nonexistent.

Thomas Hill, one of the researchers who co-authored the research paper, said, “The aerosols controlling the properties of Southern Ocean clouds are strongly linked to ocean biological processes, and that Antarctica appears to be isolated from southward dispersal of microorganisms and nutrient deposition from southern continents.” He went on to add, “Overall, it suggests that the SO is one of very few places on Earth that has been minimally affected by anthropogenic activities.”

It is good to know that there are some parts of the planet that are still mostly untouched by humans. If the pandemic has shown us anything, as we scale back our driving and industrial production, the Earth beings to clean itself very quickly. In fact, it has been eyeopening to see just how clean the air has gotten in certain parts of the world. It is also a sharp reminder that with what we’re doing to the planet, we’re not destroying it, we’re only destroying ourselves. In the grand scheme of things, our planet will recover—and very quickly it seems. As a species, we might not be able to say the same thing.

Kraig Becker