January 19, 2009

Less Pollution Played A Factor In Europe’s Warming Trend

According to researchers, Europe's temperatures have risen over the past 30 years due to fewer misty, hazy, and foggy days.

The finding could help researchers predict future climate changes.

Five to ten percent of the region's warmer temperatures can be attributed to clearer skies and less air pollution says Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a scientist from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

"The temperatures in Europe have been going up twice as fast as climate models had predicted in the past decades. Less fog means more sunshine on the ground and hence higher temperatures," said Van Oldenborgh, who worked on the study.

According to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, global temperatures are expected to increase 1.8 to 4 degrees Celsius this century.

Scientists all over the globe are searching for ways to stop the rising temperatures, fearing extinctions, storms, droughts, and other natural disasters if they are not successful.

Temperatures in Europe have outpaced global climate models, so Van Oldenborgh and his team collected data from 342 weather stations across Europe and measured haze, mist, and fog levels dating back to 1976.

Van Oldenborgh found that the number of days with visibility less than 2 kilometers was double in 1976 than it is today. The team's findings appear in the journal Nature Geoscience

Changing weather patterns and air pollution policies played a role in the warming temperatures, but according to Van Oldenborgh, they do not know how big that impact was.

The researchers believe the warming trend due to less pollution will taper off because the skies can only become so clean, Van Oldenborgh added.

"Climate is not simple and this is a new factor," he added.  "It doesn't explain everything but it explains a lot.


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