Our Brutal Winter 2014? Thank Asia's Smog

Study says air pollution in China makes storms more intense in US

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 15, 2014 1:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Next time there's a story about how horrifically bad the smog is in China or India, don't pity only the residents of Beijing or New Delhi. A new study suggests that air pollution in Asia results in more erratic, intense winter storms over North America, reports CNN. The culprit is the huge increase in aerosol emissions in Asia amid its industrial boom, say the scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The result is stronger storms in the northwest Pacific Ocean, with North America feeling the biggest effects, reports LiveScience.

"The increasing pollution in Asian countries is not just a local problem, it can affect other parts of the world," says a NASA atmospheric scientist who is the study's lead author. Another scientist on the team explains in broad terms how the chain effect works in the Guardian: "Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the US." The aerosol "particles in this model are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms." Last month, China's environmental ministry found that 71 of 74 cities monitored failed to meet air-quality standards.

A woman wearing a face mask bicycles on a road in Beijing.
A woman wearing a face mask bicycles on a road in Beijing.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
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