Air pollution is rampant in major urban centers across the world and kills more than seven million people per year around the world, according to the World Health Organization. But far from New York or Shanghai, scientists have found the world’s purest air, free from aerosol particles browning our cities’ skies. If you wish to breathe this pristine air, you’ll have to head south. Like, way down south — to the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica.
Researchers from Colorado State University performed the first bioaerosol composition of the Southern Ocean (specifically the area between Tasmania and Antarctica), determining that the air above the ocean is free of human-caused particulate pollution: “…the aerosols controlling the properties of SO (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,” said study co-author Thomas Hill in a statement. “Overall, it suggests that the SO is one of very few places on Earth that has been minimally affected by anthropogenic activities.”
Tests were conducted in what’s known as the “marine boundary level,” the section of air directly above the ocean’s surface. By studying the composition of airborne microbes — often spread thousands of miles by wind — scientists concluded that all particulate matter in the air came from the ocean. The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences described the air as “truly pristine.”