March 26, 2010

Asian Pollution Could Impact Entire World

Pollution originating in Asia is being lifted into the stratosphere during monsoon season, where it then circles around the globe for several years, according to a new National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) study released on Thursday.

According to a press release put out on March 25 by the National Science Foundation (NSF), one of the sponsors of the study, the research team used satellite observations and computer modeling to demonstrate how summer circulation patterns force the air upwards, depositing carbon, sulfur dioxide, and other pollutants 20 to 25 miles into the atmosphere.

After several years, it will either descend back towards the surface, or dissipate.

Researchers suggest that the increased industrialization of Asian countries, including China, could increase the concentration of pollution in the stratosphere. It is unknown if possible global warming induced changes to the continent's monsoon strength will have any impact on this phenomenon.

"These results present intriguing insights into the interactions of monsoons and chemical emissions generated in the heavily industrialized region of south Asia," Anjuli Bamzai, the NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences program director, said in the press release.

"The monsoon is one of the most powerful atmospheric circulation systems on the planet and it happens to form right over a heavily polluted region," lead author William Randel, an NCAR scientist, added. "As a result, [it] provides a pathway for transporting pollutants up to the stratosphere"¦ This is a vivid example of pollutants altering our atmosphere in subtle and far-reaching ways."

The report was completed by scientists in Boulder, Colorado, along with colleagues from the Universities of Waterloo and Toronto in Canada, the University of York in England, and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. It was also funded in part by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. The results appear in the March 26 edition of Science Express.


Image Caption: Pollution in the stratosphere is clearly visible in this image in the thin red line. Credit: NASA


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