U.S. researchers report that particles of human-produced pollution may be reducing rainfall and threatening the Earth's fresh water supplies.
According to a December 6 press release, a new study by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography suggests that tiny aerosol particles of soot and other pollutants -- formed by fossil fuel combustion and the burning of forests and other biomass -- are having a far greater effect on the planet's hydrological cycle than previously realized.
The study is based in part on new satellite data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and in part on the international Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX), a multiplatform analysis of the Indian Ocean using satellites, aircraft, ships and surface stations.
When sunlight heats the ocean as part of the hydrological cycle, water escapes into the atmosphere and falls out as rain. Through INDOEX it was found that aerosol pollutants are cutting down the sunlight reaching the ocean and weakening the hydrological cycle.
According to the study, if pollutants lead to reduced rain and snowfall, it could directly affect the replenishment of the world's major stores of freshwater, including lakes, groundwater supplies, glaciers and high elevation snow pack.
The study not only warns about the role aerosols are playing on the regional and global water cycle, but also suggests that aerosol pollution increases the solar heating of the atmosphere, and reduces the solar heating of the surface of the planet. The researchers say these effects may be comparable to the global warming effects of greenhouse gases.
Reduced Aerosol Pollution May Accelerate Global Warming
Aerosols cause much greater cooling than previously estimated.
Writing in the journal Nature today, scientists at the Meteorological Office and the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report that climate models used to predict future global warming have badly underestimated the cooling effect of aerosols.
"We found that aerosols actually have twice the cooling effect we thought," said Nicolas Bellouin, a climate modeller at the Met Office. The consequence is that as air quality improves and aerosol levels drop, future warming may be greater than we currently think."
Pollutants are a source of aerosols that have been decreased by environmental regulations - at least in the more industrialized countries. A decline in pollutant aerosols might cause a much higher level of global warming.
The group has produced the most precise estimates yet of how tiny particles, known as aerosols, could affect the world's climate. Aerosols, which include pollutants, have a cooling effect on the atmosphere, and the team's work suggests that the cooling effect is strong - nearly as strong as the top estimates of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Thus, the dwindling presence of aerosols means that global average temperatures could rise faster than previously estimated and reach toward the high end of projections for the end of the century.
Those estimates currently range from 2.7 to 7.9 degrees F., depending on how emissions of greenhouse gases and other factors play out in coming years.
The second article says some of the effects of aerosols still haven't been puzzled out. So the story could change. But suppose the aerosol effect turns out to be as these researchers say. Would it be possible to come up with an artificial aerosol that would have no negative health impacts yet which could lower the Earth's temperature? If such an aerosol was discovered would environmentalists oppose its widespread release?
There's an interesting angle to this report that I haven't seen reported: Rapid economic growth in China is greatly boosting particulate emissions from coal burning. But when living standards in China rise far enough the population will start demanding cleaner air. At that point a decline in Chinese aerosol emissions would happen under much higher atmospheric CO2 conditions. This could cause a temperature spike at that point.
And in other news, scientists say, "We don't have a f-----g clue. We need a lot more money to study the problem."
Quick, find a bunch of very old cars and puncture the A/C lines, so the Freon will escape and save the world!
Pollution is a problem for backwards Turd World nations who don't have the money or smarts to process drinking water, grow their own food, recycle raw materials, have HVAC systems everywhere, process wastewater, etc. Bring on the greenhouse effect, the USA will be fine and our enemies will be screwed.