Blue haze," a common occurrence that appears over heavily forested areas around the world, is formed by natural emissions of chemicals, but human activities can worsen it to the point of affecting the world's weather and even cause potential climate problems, according to a study led by a Texas A&M University researcher.
Renyi Zhang, professor of atmospheric sciences who has studied air chemistry for more than 20 years, says blue haze (tiny particles or aerosols suspended in the air) can be negatively affected by human activities such as power plants or fossil-fuel burning.
Team members included researchers from Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, the Molina Center for Energy and Environment in La Jolla, Calif., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their work is published in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the project was funded by the Welch Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Zhang says man-made activities, mainly large power plants that emit huge amounts of particles into the air, can worsen blue haze and cause previously unforeseen problems.
"The study shows that the natural way of blue haze formation is rather inefficient and that human activities make blue haze conditions worse," he confirms.
"What happens is that a mix of natural and man-made chemicals speeds up the formation of these particles in the Earth's atmosphere, and there, they reflect sunlight back into space. The results can affect cloud formations and ultimately, much of the world's climate."
When you walk through a forest or even a large grassy area, it's not uncommon to be able to smell the plants around you, such as pine trees or other vegetation. That smell is nature's way of naturally making organic gases produced by the plants themselves, often millions of tons per day.
Plants, especially trees, emit such gases through their leaves and when an overabundance of such
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Texas A&M University