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Asian pollution fueling storms across Northern Hemisphere – study

Published time: April 15, 2014 09:18
An overpass is crowded with cars amid the heavy haze in Beijing February 23, 2014. (Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon)

An overpass is crowded with cars amid the heavy haze in Beijing February 23, 2014. (Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Increasing levels of pollution in Asia are strengthening storms over the Pacific Ocean, a study has revealed. Scientists warned these changes could have a radical knock-on effect on climate systems around the world if left unchecked.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US on Monday has identified a link between increased pollution in Asia and changes in weather systems over the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists from Texas A&M University drew a comparison between levels of man-made particles in the air from 1850 to 2000 with an advanced global climate model.

They discovered that an increase in anthropogenic aerosols - fine particles given off by industrial activities – is likely causing stronger cyclones in the mid-latitudes of the Pacific, as well as increased precipitation. According to researchers, these changes could have a knock-on effect all over the world.

“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,” Renyi Zhang, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, said in a press release.

The study identifies the most common aerosols as sulfates which predominately come from coal-fired power plants. Other pollutant particles released by vehicle emissions were also detected. Once in the atmosphere these particles reflect and absorb sunlight and can have both a cooling and warming effect on climate zones.

“[Particles] 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,” said Zhang. He added “it's almost certain that weather in the US is changing.”

China is Asia’s Number 1 offender in terms of air pollutions, with the country’s largest cities regularly enveloped in toxic smog.

In addition, levels of pollution in Beijing regularly soar above international safety guidelines. In March, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection released a report revealing dire pollution problems.

It found that the most polluted cities were in the north, where most of China’s coal-fired power plants are located, as well as steel manufacturing plants. In addition, the study reported that air quality standards were only met on 48 days in 2013 in Beijing.

In an attempt to combat the rising levels of smog, the Chinese government is set to grant Beijing new rights to close polluting factories and punish officials, writes the South China Morning Post. In order to do this the government will push through an amendment to China’s 1989 Environmental Protection Law.

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