A new study says that increases in air pollution can intensify droughts and floods.
University of Maryland-led team of researchers said that increase 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.
The research provides the first clear evidence of how aerosols - soot, dust and other small particles in the atmosphere - can affect weather and climate.
"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," said lead author Zhanqing Li, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at Maryland.
The scientists obtained additional support for these findings with matching results obtained using a cloud-resolving computer model.
"Our findings have significant policy implications for sustainable development and water resources, especially for those developing regions susceptible to extreme events such as drought and flood," stated Maryland's Li, who is also affiliated with Beijing Normal University.
"Increases in manufacturing, building of power plants and other industrial developments are often accompanied with increases in pollution whose adverse impacts on weather and climate, as revealed in this study, can undercut economic gains," he added.
The study has been published in the Nov. 13 in Nature Geoscience.