In recent years, more and more people have started to take notice on how much the weather and climate has been changing. 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. Aerosols consist of sulfates, nitrates, black carbon, hundreds of organic compounds, and fly ash; when sunlight is absorbed and scattered by aerosols, it creates a brown colored haze. This creates Brown clouds, which can be found all over the world, however the biggest concern is in Asia.
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.
Another reason why the Brown Clouds in Asia are some of the biggest concerns is; that this area is home to half of the world’s population and the haze problem is particularly acute in Asia because of the large emissions of aerosols and the unique seasonal climate conditions. 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 Asian Brown Cloud is such a major concern in regards to other clouds because while in America and Europe the haze hovers above it, in Asia it is altering the weather, creating acid rain. This causes a lot of damage to agriculture, oceans and trees.
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.
In most parts of Asia, dust storms, called yellow sand
events, contain large amounts of mineral-dust aerosols.
When combined with brown clouds, they impair
visibility, pose health threats, and cause strong
changes in the atmosphere. Black carbon particles
mixed with dust during yellow sand events are
transported across the Pacific Ocean, contributing to
atmospheric brown clouds in the Pacific region.
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. Outdoor air pollution harms more than 1.1 billion people per year and kills an estimated 0.5 million people while indoor air pollution (from burning wood, animal waste, and coal for cooking and heating) kills more than 2.2 million people per year with over 98% of them located in developing countries.
Governments and people who are looking into the Asian Brown Cloud and other Brown clouds:
ABC was initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with financial support for the US component from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and participating member nations. The initial funding is for a five-year period beginning in 2003. The aim of the first phase of this program is to study the impact of atmospheric brown clouds on a number of parameters, including monsoon change, water balance, agriculture, and health. ABC scientists plan to establish a network of ground-based monitoring stations throughout the Indo-Asian and the Pacific regions to study the composition and seasonal patterns of brown clouds. UNEP has pledged to facilitate this long-term research program.
The Project Atmospheric Brown Cloud (ABC) is: A preliminary assessment using the Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX) research was completed and the potential impacts caused by brown clouds on human health, food security and the water were disseminated in 2002. Also United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)has facilitated an international science team to look into observation, science and impacts of ABC on regional climate, water budget, agriculture and human health. The aim of Project Atmospheric Brown Cloud (ABC) is to better understand the science and its impacts in order to provide a scientific basis for informed decision making.
The ABC’s layer was observed during the Indian Ocean Experiment (INODEX) intensive field observation in 1999.
1999 INODEX Intensive Field Phase Platforms – Link
In summary the Asian Brown Clouds has become a very serious and lethal situation, since the cloud has been affecting the air quality and agriculture of the areas below it and has increasingly been affecting human health and food production for at least 3 million people. These Brown Clouds are NOT restricted to one area, since Europe and America have some too, however the situation is far more severe in Asia than anywhere else. The ABC project and the INODEX research has been helping scientists on better understanding the impacts on the environment this has had, as well as help look at the development of these clouds and ways to try and reduce them.
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