Industrial Smog Amplifying Extreme Weather: Study
Scientists have discovered another reason burning fossil fuels is bad for the planet.
Extreme winter weather patterns felt across the Northern Hemisphere this year were exacerbated by extreme industrial pollution in Asia, according to a team of atmospheric scientists who published a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Tuesday.
According to the decade-long research project, mass coal burning and petrochemical processing plants in major metropolitan areas such as Beijing and Delhi are polluting the atmosphere with mass amounts of aerosols. Such a large amount of this particular pollution has changed cloud behavior, the scientists say, which in turn has affected global weather patterns.
Coal-fired power plants are already well known as sources of climate-altering greenhouse gases such as carbon-dioxide. Carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants doubled in the 21st century—a direct result of the boom in Asian plants largely supplying power for factories making goods for the U.S. and Europe.
However, the impact of aerosols, another coal-related pollutant, on the weather is also very dramatic, according to the researchers.
Aerosol pollution “results in thicker and taller clouds and heavier precipitation,” said the lead author of the study Yuan Wang, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.
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