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NASA data link pollution to rainy summer days in the southeast
Date:2/1/2008

WASHINGTON - Rainfall data from a NASA satellite show that summertime storms in the southeastern United States shed more rainfall midweek than on weekends. Scientists say air pollution from humans is likely driving that trend.

The link between rainfall and the day of the week is evident in data from NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite, known as TRMM. Midweek storms tend to be stronger, drop more rain and span a larger area across the Southeast compared to calmer and drier weekends. The findings are from a study led by Thomas Bell, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Bell said the trend could be attributed to atmospheric pollution from humans, which also peaks midweek.

"It's eerie to think that we're affecting the weather," said Bell, lead author of the study published online this week in the American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research. "It appears that we're making storms more violent."

Rainfall measurements collected from ground-based gauges can vary from one gauge site to the next because of fickle weather patterns. So, to identify any kind of significant weekly rainfall trend, Bell and colleagues looked at the big picture from Earth's orbit. The team collected data from instruments on the TRMM satellite, which they used to estimate daily summertime rainfall averages from 1998 to 2005 across the entire Southeast.

The team found that, on average, it rained more between Tuesday and Thursday than from Saturday through Monday. Newly analyzed satellite data show that summer 2007 echoed the midweek trend with peak rainfall occurring late on Thursdays. However, midweek increases in rainfall were more significant in the afternoon, when the conditions for summertime storms are in place. Based on satellite data, afternoon rainfall peaked on Tuesdays, with 1.8 times more rainfall than on Saturdays, which experienced the least amount of afternoon rain.


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Contact: Steve Cole
stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov
202-358-0918
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Source:Eurekalert

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