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Von Bismarck

Rising Air Pollution Worsens

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Increases in air pollution and other particulate matter in the atmosphere can strongly affect cloud development in ways that reduce precipitation in dry regions or seasons, while increasing rain, snowfall and the intensity of severe storms in wet regions or seasons, says a new study by a University of Maryland-led team of researchers.

The research provides the first clear evidence of how aerosols -- soot, dust and other small particles in the atmosphere -- can affect weather and climate; and the findings have important implications for the availability, management and use of water resources in regions across the United States and around the world, say the researchers and other scientists.

"Using a 10-year dataset of extensive atmosphere measurements from the U.S. Southern Great Plains research facility in Oklahoma [run by the Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program] -- 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," says Zhanqing Li, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at Maryland and lead author of the study.

The study found that under very dirty conditions, the mean cloud height of deep convective clouds is more than twice the mean height under crystal clean air conditions. "The probability of heavy rain is virtually doubled from clean to dirty conditions, while the chance of light rain is reduced by 50 percent," says Maryland's Li, who is also affiliated with Beijing Normal University.

Rising Air Pollution Worsens Drought, Flooding UMD-Led Study Shows

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