Aerosol pollution impacting rainfall, climate change

February 13th, 2009 - 4:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 13 (IANS) Pollution from aerosols is likely to have a greater impact on rainfall patterns and future climate change than previously thought, according to a leading atmospheric scientist.
“We have identified that the extensive pollution haze emanating from Asia may be re-shaping rainfall patterns in northern Australia but we wonder what impact natural and human-generated aerosols are having across the rest of the country,” said Leon Rotstayn of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Aerosols are fine particles suspended in the atmosphere. Sources of human-generated aerosols include industry, motor vehicles and vegetation burning. Natural sources include volcanoes, dust storms and ocean plankton.

Human-generated aerosols have long been known to exert a cooling effect on climate. This has partly masked the warming effect of increasing greenhouse gases. As aerosol pollution is predicted to decrease over the next few decades, unmasking of the greenhouse effect may lead to accelerated global warming.

However, in an address to the International Conference on Southern Hemisphere Meteorology and Oceanography in Melbourne, Rotstayn said aerosols are much more than a ‘negative greenhouse gas’ because they can actively force changes in winds and ocean currents by altering the distribution of solar heating at the earth’s surface.

Rotstayn said that further research into how aerosols are influencing climate and rainfall patterns across Australia is critical to scientists’ ability to more accurately predict the longer-term effects of climate change, said a CSIRO release.

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