Asian pollution is strengthening storms, new study finds



Researchers have suggested that pollution from China and other Asian countries is strengthening storms above the Pacific Ocean and influencing weather patterns elsewhere in the northern hemisphere.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal has suggested there is a link between the high levels of pollution that affect many Asian cities and the intensity of Pacific storms.

Researchers used a multiscale global aerosol-climate model to observe that pollutants interact with water droplets in the air, causing denser clouds and heavier rainfall and intensifying the storms, especially in winter months.

Lead author Yuan Wang, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, said, “The effects are quite dramatic. The pollution results in thicker and taller clouds and heavier precipitation.

Since the Pacific storm track is an important component in the global general circulation, the impacts of Asian pollution on the storm track tend to affect the weather patterns of other parts of the world during the wintertime, especially a downstream region [of the track] like North America”.

Pollution is a severe problem in many Asian cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and New Delhi. In China, where the issue is particularly problematic, citizens suffer from health problems and have to deal with contaminated water and agricultural land.

However, high levels of pollution have also hit Europe recently, with Paris forced to halve the number of cars on the road and the UK experiencing a pollution crisis, triggered by weather events and a dust storm from the Sahara.

Many have criticised the lack of government action to improve air quality in UK cities, after the European commission launched legal proceedings against the UK because of its excessive pollution.

Photo: State Farm via Flickr

Further reading:

Beijing issues first ‘orange’ pollution warning amid smog crisis

China: We are not prepared for climate change

UK air pollution ‘a major threat to biodiversity’

What is causing the high levels of air pollution in the UK?

World Health Organisation: air pollution is carcinogenic to humans


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