Pollution and the Weather

Much has been written about the effects of air pollution on the world’s weather patterns. A recent example of how airborne pollutants affect the weather comes from the mountains of the People’s Republic of China.

According to the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), aerial pollution has had a major impact on the environment of eastern and central China. In this part of the world, such pollutants put the brakes on the movements of valley breezes.  Because of this lack of wind, the amount of moisture carried over nearby mountain ranges has decreased notably.

The PNNL team based its conclusions on a combination of weather data and computer modeling. Using this approach, the researchers were able to identify shifts in the climate of Mount Hua, a mountain with a 7,067 foot peak.

Wind, Rain, Farming and Food

In a press release detailing her team’s findings, lead researcher Jiwen Fan described the impact of pollution on Mount Hua. “As a result of air pollution], the usual transport of water vapor from the valley to the mountain is significantly reduced. This causes cascading effects that suppress convection, the process that forms stormy rain clouds, and precipitation over the mountain.”

A lack of wind-fueled rain can have serious consequences for the population near China’s mountains. Mountain rain storms are essential for resupplying numerous rivers and reservoirs throughout the country. In turn, these reservoirs and rivers are utilized by millions of Chinese citizens for their daily needs.  The Journal of Atmospheric Sciences carried the report in its March 2016 issue.

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