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.
This while increasing rain, snowfall and the intensity of severe storms in wet regions or seasons, according to results of a new study.
The research provides the first clear evidence of how aerosols--soot, dust and other particulates in the atmosphere--may affect weather and climate.
The findings have important implications for the availability, management and use of water resources in regions across the United States and around the world.
"Using a 10-year dataset of atmospheric measurements, we have uncovered the long-term, net impact of aerosols on cloud height and thickness and the resulting changes in precipitation frequency and intensity," says Zhanqing Li, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland and lead author of a paper reporting the results.
The paper was published today in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Co-authors are Feng Niu and Yanni Ding, also of the University of Maryland; Jiwen Fan of the U.S. Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Yangang Liu of the U.S. Department of Energy Brookhaven National Laboratory; and Daniel Rosenfeld of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
"Aerosols' effects on cloud and precipitation development are key questions for scientific community," says Chungu Lu, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research.
"The question is not only important for our understanding of the effects of natural processes and human activities on climate change, but for addressing issues in air pollution, disaster relief, water resource management and human weather modification."
In addition to the scope and timeframe of the research team's observations, the scientists m
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National Science Foundation