Air pollution in Asia strengthening Pacific storms
Researchers have found that pollutants are strengthening storms above the Pacific Ocean, which feeds into weather systems in other parts of the world. The effect was most pronounced during the winter. Parts of Asia have some of the highest levels of air pollution in the world.
Lead author Yuan Wang, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, said: "The effects are quite dramatic. The pollution results in thicker and taller clouds and heavier precipitation."
In China's capital, Beijing, pollutants frequently reach hazardous levels, while emissions in the Indian capital, Delhi, also regularly soar above those recommended by the World Health Organization. This has dire consequences for the health of those living in these regions, but there is growing evidence that there are other impacts further afield.
A thick haze of pollution envelopes Beijing - but scientists say the toxic air travels much further afield
To analyse this, researchers from the US and China used computer models to look at the effect of Asia's pollution on weather systems. The team said that tiny polluting particles were blown towards the north Pacific where they interacted with water droplets in the air. Moreover, caused clouds to grow denser, resulting in more intense storms above the ocean.
Commenting on the study, Professor Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading, said: "We are becoming increasingly aware that pollution in the atmosphere can have an impact both locally - wherever it is sitting over regions - and it can a remote impact in other parts of the world. This is a good example of that.
There have also been suggestions that aerosols over the North Atlantic effect storms over the North Atlantic, and that aerosols in the monsoon region over South Asia can affect circulation around the whole of the world.