Toxic cloud

By From page A4 | January 27, 2014

The Pacific Northwest experienced a “cloud” of radiation after Japan’s monster tsunami sent three units of a power plant into meltdown following the March 11, 2011, Tōhoku magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

That was pretty tame compared to what China has been sending us via the atmosphere — air pollution.

It’s been going on for some time and has always been noticeable in the Pacific Northwest. But it has become exponentially worse. Foreigners in Beijing have created bubbles for their children to play in at schools.

Now that uncontrolled air pollution is affecting the entire West Coast and more.

“Extreme air pollution in Asia is affecting the world’s weather and climate patterns, according to a study by Texas A&M University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers,” according to a press release from Texas A&M.

“Yuan Wang, a former doctoral student at Texas A&M, along with Texas A&M atmospheric sciences professors Renyi Zhang and R. Saravanan, have had their findings published in the current issue of Nature Communications.”

“Air pollution levels in some Chinese cities, such as Beijing, are often more than 100 times higher than acceptable limits set by the World Health Organization standards,” Zhang said.

The Beijing air pollution is nothing like what California’s air pollution was like in the 1970s, even though general aviation pilots could see California’s brown haze as they flew south from Oregon. In 20 years California’s air has become close to crystal clear, even on most summer days.

Beijing’s air pollution is more like Pittsburgh’s in the 19th century through the 1940s until it passed its first air pollution law in 1946. Until Pittsburgh cleaned up its air pollution, coal fumes blotted out the sun and would turn laundry grey as it dried on clothes lines. Today the air in Pittsburgh is fabulous.

“Increases in coal burning and car emissions are major sources of pollution in China and other Asian countries,” Texas A&M researchers said.

The researchers used climate models, which is a dubious form of science. Relying on 30 years of data about aerosols and meteorology, “the researchers found that air pollution over Asia — much of it coming from China — is impacting global air circulations.”

“The models clearly show that pollution originating from Asia has an impact on the upper atmosphere and it appears to make such storms or cyclones even stronger,” Zhang explained.

“This pollution affects cloud formations, precipitation, storm intensity and other factors and eventually impacts climate. Most likely, pollution from Asia can have important consequences on the weather pattern here over North America.”

OK, so bring on the storms; California could use a whole bunch.

There is no question that China’s pollution is heavy and is drifting over to America, boosting pollution levels here.

“Huge amounts of aerosols from Asia go as high as six miles up in the atmosphere and these have an unmistakable impact on cloud formations and weather.”

 Zhang added that “we need to do some future research on exactly how these aerosols are transported globally and impact climate. There are many other atmospheric observations and models we need to look at to see how this entire process works.”
“The study was funded by grants from NASA, Texas A&M’s Supercomputing facilities and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China,” according to Texas A&M.
That is the key shortcoming of this study. It was done on a supercomputer. Climate modeling is no substitute for doing actual atmospheric and meteorological measurements.
Wang is a Cal Tech post doctoral scholar at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The JPL has the resources to make the kinds of direct observations these studies really need. We look forward to refined information on these studies of Asian pollution. Meantime, our government should be using its diplomatic connections to urge China to tackle its pollution more aggressively instead of bullying its neighbors over a disputed island in the South China Sea.

Mountain Democrat

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