How cooking fish and chips can change the weather

Chemists at the universities of Reading, Bristol and Bath say that frying food could have a 'significant' impact on cloud formation and rainy weather.

You may see it as a harmless Friday night meal, but eating fish and chips could be having effects beyond your waistline. 

A new study has found that frying food can alter the weather, as fatty acids released into the air from cooking oil help form clouds.

The researchers suggest that the impact of frying food may even be large enough to have a cooling effect on the planet.

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You may see it as a harmless Friday night meal, but eating fish and chips could be having effects beyond your waistline. A new study has found that frying food can alter the weather, as fatty acids released into the air from cooking oil help form clouds (stock image)

You may see it as a harmless Friday night meal, but eating fish and chips could be having effects beyond your waistline. A new study has found that frying food can alter the weather, as fatty acids released into the air from cooking oil help form clouds (stock image)

HOW FRYING FOOD AFFECTS THE CLIMATE

In their study, the researchers levitated droplets of brine and oleic acid, a fatty acid associated with cooking. 

They found that the fat molecules assembled into highly structure 'lypotropic' phases - crystal-like lattices of spheres or cylinders that are known to affect water uptake. 

Further experiments showed that fatty acids in these structures were more reistant to ozone, and so could survive longer and travel further in the atmosphere. 

The findings suggest that the extended lifetimes of these molecules may help clouds to form.   

Researchers from the University of Reading have demonstrated for the first time that fats released during cooking can form complex 3D structures in atmospheric aerosol droplets.

The team believes that the formation of these structures is likely to extend the atmospheric lifetimes of these molecules and affects how clouds form.

Dr Christian Pfrang, co-author of the study, said: 'It is known that fatty acid molecules coating the surface of aerosol particles in the atmosphere may affect the aerosol's ability to seed cloud formation. 

'However, this is the first time scientists have considered what these molecules do inside of the aerosol droplet, and we have shown that they may be assembling into a range of complex, ordered patterns and structures. 

'This means they may last longer in the atmosphere.'

In their study, the researchers levitated droplets of brine and oleic acid, a fatty acid associated with cooking. 

They found that the fat molecules assembled into highly structure 'lypotropic' phases - crystal-like lattices of spheres or cylinders that are known to affect water uptake. 

Further experiments showed that fatty acids in these structures were more reistant to ozone, and so could survive longer and travel further in the atmosphere. 

The findings suggest that the extended lifetimes of these molecules may help clouds to form.   

Researchers showed that fats released during cooking can form complex 3D structures in atmospheric aerosol droplets. The team believes the formation of these structures extends the atmospheric lifetimes of these molecules and affects how clouds form (stock image)

Researchers showed that fats released during cooking can form complex 3D structures in atmospheric aerosol droplets. The team believes the formation of these structures extends the atmospheric lifetimes of these molecules and affects how clouds form (stock image)

Dr Adam Squires, co-author of the study, said: 'We know that the complex structures we saw are formed by similar fatty acid molecules like soap in water. 

'There, they dramatically affect whether the mixture is cloudy or transparent, solid or liquid, and how much it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere in a lab. 

'The idea that this may also be happening in the air above our heads is exciting, and raises challenges in understanding what these cooking fats are really doing to the world around us.'

The researchers hope their findings will encourage more scientists to explore the impact of fats in the atmosphere.  

Dr Pfrang added: 'It is likely that these structures have a significant effect on water uptake of droplets in the atmosphere, increase lifetimes of reactive molecules and generally slow down transport inside these droplets with yet unexplored consequences.'