Leonard Schulz, Karl-Heinz Glassmeier, On the anthropogenic and natural injection of matter into Earth’s atmosphere,
Advances in Space Research, Volume 67, Issue 3, 2021, Pages 1002-1025, ISSN 0273-1177,
Every year, more and more objects are sent to space. The increasing number of countries with space programs, advancing commercialization, and ambitious satellite constellation projects raise concerns about space debris and the increase of mass flux into the atmosphere due to deorbiting of satellites and rocket bodies. A comparison of this anthropogenic influx to the natural influx due to meteoroids is presented giving detailed information about the mass, composition and ablation of the entering matter. Currently, anthropogenic material does make up about 2.8% compared to the annual injected mass of natural origin. For two different future scenarios considering planned and already partially installed large satellite constellations this fraction increases to nearly 13%, respectively 40%. For these cases, the anthropogenic injection of several metals prevails the injection by natural sources by far. Considering different ablation products, we find that the anthropogenic injection of aerosols into the atmosphere increases disproportionately. Today, they make up about 1% compared to the injected aerosol mass of natural origin, increasing to 30% and 94% for the two future scenarios, respectively. Considering the injection of atoms, the natural injection is dominant by far. For the two future scenarios, the anthropogenic injection is only at 5%, respectively 15% compared to the annual natural atom injection. The predicted strong increase in anthropogenic injection will make it significant in comparison to the natural injection which can have yet unknown effects on Earth’s atmosphere and the terrestrial habitat.