Dirty air fosters precipitation extremes | Science News

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Dirty air fosters precipitation extremes

Changes to clouds encourage drought in dry areas and torrential downpours in moist ones

By
4:11pm, November 13, 2011

Even clouds can suffer from inhaling air pollution, a new study finds, resulting in extreme rainfall patterns that appear to be altering climate across the globe.

Farmers, municipal water authorities and others who depend on rainfall prefer moderate, dependable precipitation. But as soot and other minute airborne particles — a class of pollutants known as aerosols — get sucked into clouds, the pollution can dramatically alter when clouds deposit rain. The discovery emerged from analyzing every one of thousands of clouds passing over federal monitoring instruments at a site in the western United States over a 10-year period, explains Zhanqing Li of the University of Marylan

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