Washington: Scientists claim to have found the first clear evidence of how rising levels of air pollution and other particulate matter in the atmosphere can severely affect weather and climate patterns around the world.
An international team led by the University of Maryland researchers found that rising levels of aerosols -- tiny solid particles including soot, dust and sulfate particles -- in
the air strongly affects cloud formations in ways that decline precipitation in dry areas, while increase rain, snowfall and storms in wet regions.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, have important economic and water resource implications for regions around the world, said the researchers, who used a 10-year dataset of extensive atmosphere measurements from the US Southern Great Plains research facility in Oklahoma.
"We have uncovered, for the first time, the long-term, net impact of aerosols on cloud height and thickness, and the resultant changes in precipitation frequency and intensity,"
said Zhanqing Li, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at Maryland, who led the research.
Li said: "These new findings of long-term impacts, which we made using regional ground measurements, also are consistent with different findings we obtained from an analysis of NASA`s global satellite products and have just published in a separate study.
"Together, they attest to the needs of tackling both climate and environmental changes that matter so much to our daily life."
Tony Busalacchi, who heads the Scientific Committee of World Climate Research Program, noted the significance of the new findings.
"Understanding interactions across clouds, aerosols and precipitation is one of the grand challenges for climate research in the decade ahead, as identified in a recent major world climate conference," Busalacchi said.