August 18, 2009

China’s air pollution is reducing rainfall

U.S. Department of Energy research shows eastern China's air pollution during the past 50 years has reduced the amount of light rainfall by 23 percent.

The study's results, officials said, suggest bad air quality might be affecting that country's ability to raise crops, as well as contributing to health and environmental problems.

The study, led by atmospheric scientist Yun Qian at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, links for the first time high levels of air pollutants with conditions that prevent the light kind of rainfall that is critical for agriculture.

People have long wondered if there was a connection, but this is the first time we've observed it from long-term data, said Qian. Besides the health effects, acid rain and other problems that pollution creates, this work suggests that reducing air pollution might help ease the drought in north China.

The research appears in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.