Western US's Stronger Storms Traced to Asia Pollution ; Winter Cyclones May Be Gaining Intensity as They Pick Up Soot and Other Particles, Says a US Research Team

By Spotts, Peter N | The Christian Science Monitor, March 12, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Western US's Stronger Storms Traced to Asia Pollution ; Winter Cyclones May Be Gaining Intensity as They Pick Up Soot and Other Particles, Says a US Research Team


Spotts, Peter N, The Christian Science Monitor


Air pollution blowing over the western US from Asia has been a growing environmental concern for several years. Now, it seems, it's giving winter storms added punch as well.

Tiny aerosols and soot from burning wood and coal in winter, especially in China, appear to be seeding clouds in large winter storms that churn thousands of miles east across the northern Pacific, says a team of US scientists. The pollution is turning relatively routine marine rain clouds into towering thunderheads, much like those seen above land.

Previous studies have shown that during the last half of the 20th century, northern Pacific winter storms have become steadily more frequent and stronger, based on tracking wind speeds and atmospheric pressure. The latest results, published last week, indicate that ill winds blowing out of Asia are adding muscle to the types of clouds these stronger winter cyclones carry.

The team posits that the shift toward these types of clouds, with their strong updrafts, could be altering global circulation patterns - perhaps even masking the effects of global warming, because the thicker, taller clouds reflect more sunlight back into space. And they could be contributing to more rapid melting of snow and ice in the Arctic as dark soot is lofted by strong updrafts in these clouds and carried north to fall back to the surface.

Others have noted this effect of smoke and soot on individual thunderstorms in the Amazon. But this is the first time researchers have seen the effect on storm systems hundreds of miles across.

"As you change things in the atmosphere, whether it's particulates or climate change, all of the effects are not obvious" immediately, says Renyi Zhang, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University in College Station, who led the study.

A poor grasp on aerosols' effects

The team has long been interested in the effects soot and tiny particles called aerosols have on climate. The latest report on global-warming science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released last month, shows that researchers have a poor grasp on these effects. Of all the agents affecting climate - sunlight, greenhouse gases, mineral dust blowing around, for example - the "indirect" effect aerosols have on climate through seeding clouds remains the largest source of uncertainty the report lists.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Western US's Stronger Storms Traced to Asia Pollution ; Winter Cyclones May Be Gaining Intensity as They Pick Up Soot and Other Particles, Says a US Research Team
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?