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In recent years, more and more people have started to take notice on how much the weather and climate has been changing. Climate change is a long-term change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods of time that range from decades to millions of years. This has been caused mostly due to natural variability or to human activity. Many scientists have noticed that pollution has affected much of the environment, one of the main forms of pollution in the environment is air pollution.
Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials into the atmosphere. These pollutants can cause harm or discomfort to living organisms, and certain pollutants can remain in the environment and accumulate over time.
The Asian Brown Cloud/Haze is an especially important problem in concerns of the creation and the effects of it. First we have to answer the question: What is the Asian Brown Cloud? The Asian Brown Cloud is a layer of air pollution that covers parts of the northern Indian Ocean, India, Pakistan, and parts of South Asia, Southwest Asia, and China.
The causes for this cloud is caused mainly by domestic wood and dung fires plus smoke from the burning of forests and fields for agriculture. In addition vehicle exhausts, power plants, factory chimneys, characteristic of biomass burning and industrial emissions due to incomplete burning are all added to the mix. Burning biomass such as dried twigs, leaves and dung, and agricultural slash-and-burn practices, are common across poor, rural Asian areas.
The Asian Brown Cloud interferes with the normal distribution of solar energy from the sun to the atmosphere and the surface of the earth by absorbing and deflecting light energy. Black soot particles in the Asian Brown Cloud absorbs the sunlight and warms the atmosphere around the area, it is calculated that the cloud boosted the effect of solar heating on the air around it by almost 50 percent. The overall effect is that the layer of land and air extending from the surface to the troposphere will be overall generally warmed by the Asian Brown Cloud and similar clouds.
The environmental effects are tremendous in regards to the Asian Brown cloud. The Himalayan glaciers provide the source of many of Asia’s great rivers, with millions of people depending on them for food and water. Asian Brown Clouds increase atmospheric heating these glaciers are in retreat for the past number of decades. They carry large amounts of soot and black carbon which are deposited on the glaciers, allowing them to absorb more of the sun’s heat and melt quicker. Asian Brown Clouds are also interfering with centuries old monsoon patterns with disastrous consequences for food production.
The health impact of these particles is an increase in cardiovascular effects, pulmonary illnesses and chronic respiratory problems. The report estimates that in India and China alone, Asian Brown Clouds result in over 330,000 excess deaths per year.
At ScienceNetlinks: Science Updates Asian Brown Clouds, it posted a Podcast on the Asian Brown cloud. The cloud is associated with winter monsoon (December to April) during which there is no rain to wash pollution from the air.
The cloud peaks in size during the winter, when the temperature of the air tends to be hotter than the ground. That situation is called an “inversion,” and the upshot is that pollutants get trapped in the atmosphere and can’t move. It’s like putting a lid on a pot. Seasonal variations like this affect pollution in American cities as well; for example, Los Angeles experiences a similar inversion during the summer months, which tends to be the smoggiest time there.
This pollution layer was observed during the Indian Ocean Experiment (INODEX) intensive field observation in 1999. Subsequently the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been supporting a project called ABC (still ongoing in 2007).
For More information on the facts and Myths of Asian Brown clouds please check out the PDF file: Asian Brown Cloud Fact and Fantasy
For more on Air pollution in regards to clouds check this PDF file out: Pollution and Clouds
Youtube video on [CNN] Asia\’s Pollution Super-Cloud 2008.11.13