Air pollution levels can have a direct weather impact, according to the latest US climate research.
Heightened levels of airborne particulates affect how clouds are constructed and, in turn, affect rainfall levels, they say, in what they claim is a pioneering study.
As a result, the effects of droughts can be exacerbated in one location, while flood levels increase elsewhere.
Aerosols, such as dust and soot, all take the form of minute solid or liquid particles suspended in the air. They’re produced by a variety of sources, including fossil fuel burning, industrial activities or malicious forest clearance practices. Much research has taken place into the link between greenhouse gases and the atmosphere but, along the way, the aerosols weather impact issue has been less-widely understood, the researchers suggest.
Air Pollution Weather Research
This air pollution weather research was carried out by scientists working at the University of Maryland, headed by oceanic science and atmospheric professor, Zhanqing Li.
“Using a 10-year dataset of extensive atmosphere measurements from the U.S. Southern Great Plains research facility in Oklahoma [run by the Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program], we have uncovered, for the first time, the long-term, net impact of aerosols on cloud height and thickness, and the resultant changes in precipitation frequency and intensity”, he said, in a 14 November university press release.
Air Pollution Levels Impact
He and his air pollution levels impact study colleagues discovered a consistent height difference in convective clouds, dependant on air quality conditions at the time, with the heaviest pollution levels effectively causing these clouds to more than double in size. This, according to Li, essentially increases “the probability of heavy rain” two-fold, while reducing the “chance of light rain…by 50 per cent. He added: “Our findings have significant policy implications for sustainable development and water resources, especially for those developing regions susceptible to extreme events such as drought and flood.”
“These new findings of long-term impacts…attest to the needs of tackling both climate and environmental changes that matter so much to our daily life”, Li concluded.