When man-made activities emit sulfur dioxide into the air, they contribute to blue haze, usually in a negative way, Zhang explains. Aerosols can be produced by many different processes that occur on land and water or in the atmosphere itself, he notes.
"Weather patterns can be affected worldwide and the blue haze can worsen the breathing problems of many people, such as those who suffer from asthma or emphysema," he adds.
"The chemistry of Earth's atmosphere can be directly affected by these aerosols. From cloud formations to health problems and air pollution, much of it can be traced back to these aerosol particles," he adds, noting that aerosol particles can influence the size and rate of cloud droplets, directly affecting cloud cover and precipitation.
Coal plants, Zhang says, often produced sulfur dioxide, a highly toxic substance that reach the Earth's atmosphere and helps the formation of aerosol particles.
The problem is not new. Zhang says former President Ronald Reagan mentioned it during a speech almost 30 years ago.
"About 80 percent of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation," Reagan noted during a 1980 speech to an environmental group.
Zhang says more research is needed to "study the full extent of how blue haze is affected by human activities, and perhaps to look at ways to control the situation. It's a problem that can have global consequences."
|Contact: Renyi Zhang|
Texas A&M University