Several new climate simulations suggest tropical cyclones in the Atlantic may increase as air pollution decreases. It''s troubling, although not a surprise.
When tiny aerosols like dust, soot, and sulfates are airborne, they produce smog that can reduce sunlight and cool Earth''s atmosphere and surface.
And, if you think it, it''s not the same as the effects of greenhouse gases, which trap energy from the Sun in our atmosphere and warming our planet.
Given the interplay between these different forms of pollution, it''s possible that anthropogenic aerosols have eliminated some of the greatest effects of global warming.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has recently linked regional air pollution from industries and cars to storm activity around the globe.
International weather and pollution statistics have revealed that aerosol control measures in Europe and the United States have seen pollution levels decrease dramatically.
Researchers have shown that a reduction in pollution would have significantly contributed to an increase in tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic.
The analysis suggests that the mid-latitudes of the North Atlantic would have been warmed, thus that the subtropical jets would have induced a poleward shift, which decreases vertical wind shear and increases tropical cyclone activity.
Aerosols aren''t the only factors in our planet''s atmosphere that affect the frequency and severity of hurricanes, but these findings suggest that they play a significant role. A third of the population of hurricanes has risen.
Despite the fact that aerosol pollution is on the rise today, it has increased by 50 percent from 1980 to 2010.
All of that, according to simulations, pollution cooled temperatures and weakened monsoon circulation in the tropical western Pacific. During 2000 to 2020, tropical cyclone activity decreased by 14 percent as compared to the 20 previous years.
Despite this modest recovery from storms, increasing air pollution isn''t a viable strategy for a clean and healthy future.
Reduceing greenhouse gases should still be our first strategy of attack. As climate change worsens, predictions suggest it may make tropical storms somewhat less common but more severe.
Air pollution isn''t able to keep up, but it''s also associated with a host of other dangerous issues.
"Air pollution is a major cause, so reduction of emissions is crucial no matter what happens with the number of cyclones," says the state''s public health scientist.
Some scientists have proposed that we strive to artificially dim the Sun with billions of sulfur particles. But others are concerned that if we tighten any more with the atmosphere, we will create an even larger problem that is beyond our control.
Earth''s climate is a complicated, highly tuned system, and we''ve slowed it one too many times. However, it''s clear that whatever we do, the time to act is now.
The study was published in Science Advances.