Air pollution aggravates drought, flooding

November 14th, 2011 - 1:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 14 (IANS) Rising air pollution levels can seriously affect cloud formation in ways that reduce precipitation in dry areas, while increasing rain, snowfall and severe storms in wet regions or seasons worldwide.

New research provides the first clear evidence of how aerosols — soot, dust and other small particles in the air — can affect weather and climate patterns.

The findings have important economic and water resource implications for regions across the US and around the world, say a team of researchers led by University of Maryland, the journal Nature Geoscience reports.

“For the first time, we uncovered the long-term, net impact of aerosols on cloud height and thickness, and the resultant changes in precipitation frequency and intensity,” says Maryland’s atmospheric and oceanic science professor Zhanqing Li, who led the study.

The findings are based on a 10-year dataset of extensive atmosphere measurements from the US Southern Great Plains research facility in Oklahoma, adds Li, according to a Maryland statement.

“These new findings of long-term impacts which we made using regional ground measurements are also consistent with different findings we obtained from an analysis of NASA’s global satellite products and have just published in a separate study.

“Together, they attest to the needs of tackling both climate and environmental changes that matter so much to our daily life,” says Li.

Tony Busalacchi, who heads the Joint Scientific Committee, World Climate Research Program, notes the significance of the new findings.

“Understanding interactions across clouds, aerosols and precipitation is one of the grand challenges for climate research in the decade ahead, as identified in a recent major world climate conference,” Busalacchi said.

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