There’s a lot of talk about how polluting air emissions from shipping can affect the health of people living in coastal regions. An estimated 200,000 people die prematurely. However, it’s not a one-way street. Extreme air pollution in Asia appears to be making storms and cyclones stronger, according to a study by Texas A&M University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers. This implies that shipping safety could, in turn, be adversely impacted by land pollution.
The researchers found that air pollution over Asia – much of it coming from China – is impacting global air circulations. China’s booming economy during the last 30 years has led to the building of enormous manufacturing factories, industrial plants, power plants and other facilities that produce huge amounts of air pollutants. Once emitted into the atmosphere, pollutant particles affect cloud formations and weather systems worldwide, the study shows. Increases in coal burning and car emissions are major sources of pollution in China and other Asian countries.
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.
“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,” said Zhang.
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. One study has shown that lung cancer rates have increased 400 percent in some areas due to the ever-growing pollution problem.
Conditions tend to worsen during winter months when a combination of stagnant weather patterns mixed with increased coal burning in many Asian cities can create pollution and smog that can last for weeks. The Chinese government has pledged to toughen pollution standards and to commit sufficient financial resources to attack the problem.