Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Huge Dust Plumes
From China Cause
Changes in Climate
(Courtesy of Wall Street Journal)
One tainted export from China can't be avoided in North America -- air.
An outpouring of dust layered with man-made sulfates, smog, industrial fumes, carbon grit and nitrates is crossing the Pacific Ocean on prevailing winds from booming Asian economies in plumes so vast they alter the climate. These rivers of polluted air can be wider than the Amazon and deeper than the Grand Canyon.
"There are times when it covers the entire Pacific Ocean basin like a ribbon bent back and forth," said atmospheric physicist V. Ramanathan at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.
On some days, almost a third of the air over Los Angeles and San Francisco can be traced directly to Asia. With it comes up to three-quarters of the black carbon particulate pollution that reaches the West Coast, Dr. Ramanathan and his colleagues recently reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
This transcontinental pollution is part of a growing global traffic in dust and aerosol particles made worse by drought and deforestation, said Steven Cliff, who studies the problem at the University of California at Davis.
Aerosols -- airborne microscopic particles -- are produced naturally every time a breeze catches sea salt from ocean spray, or a volcano erupts, or a forest burns, or a windstorm kicks up dust, for example. They also are released in exhaust fumes, factory vapors and coal-fired power plant emissions.