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Asian Pollution Impacts Pacific Storm Track, Study Finds

Apr 15, 2014 04:48 PM EDT
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A comparison of historical climate data has led researchers to conclude that man-made air pollution generated in Asia has an impact on the Pacific storm track, which influences weather around the globe.

The Pacific storm track transports heat and moisture, acting as an essential driver of global circulation.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a multidisciplinary team of researchers details their work, saying that their comparison of air pollution rates from 1850 and the year 2000 is the first of its kind.

Pre- and post-industrial weather scenarios were considered for the study. The pre-industrial era is represented by the 1850 data, and the present day is represented by data from 2000.

By using an advanced global climate model, the researchers determined that anthropogenic aerosols have an impact on cloud formation and multi-latitude cyclones associated with the Pacific storm track.

"There appears to be little doubt that these particles from Asia affect storms sweeping across the Pacific and subsequently the weather patterns in North America and the rest of the world," said study author Renyi Zhang of Texas A&M's Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

"The climate model is quite clear on this point," Zhang said. "The aerosols formed by human activities from fast-growing Asian economies do impact storm formation and global air circulation downstream. They tend to make storms deeper and stronger and more intense, and these storms also have more precipitation in them. We believe this is the first time that a study has provided such a global perspective."

Aerosols emitted into the atmosphere as pollution can scatter or absorb solar radiation and alter cloud formations. As levels of these aerosols in the atmosphere grow, there is increasing cause for concern because of the impacts the compounds can have on circulation.

The researchers found the Pacific storm track to be intensified as a result of an outflow of air pollution from Asia.

"Our results support previous findings that show that particles in the air over Asia tend to affect global weather patterns," Zhang added. "It shows they can affect the Earth's weather significantly."

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