Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Warming world could worsen pollution in Northeast, Midwest

21.02.2005


Harvard researcher to report at AAAS meeting on projected decline in cleansing summer winds



While science’s conventional wisdom holds that pollution feeds global warming, new research suggests that the reverse could also occur: A warming globe could stifle summer’s cleansing winds over the Northeast and Midwest over the next 50 years, significantly worsening air pollution in these regions.

Loretta J. Mickley, a research associate at Harvard University’s Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, will report on these findings Saturday, Feb. 19, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. Her work is based on modeling of the impact of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations on pollution events across the United States through 2050.


Using this model, Mickley and colleagues found that the frequency of cold fronts bringing cool, clear air out of Canada during summer months declined about 20 percent. These cold fronts, Mickley said, are responsible for breaking up hot, stagnant air that builds up regularly in summer, generating high levels of ground-level ozone pollution. "The air just cooks," Mickley says. "The pollution accumulates, accumulates, accumulates, until a cold front comes in and the winds sweep it away."

Ozone is beneficial when found high in the atmosphere because it absorbs cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation. Near the ground, however, high concentrations are considered a pollutant, irritating sensitive tissues, particularly lung tissues.

"If this model is correct, global warming would cause an increase in difficult days for those affected by ozone pollution, such as people suffering with respiratory illnesses like asthma and those doing physical labor or exercising outdoors," Mickley says.

Mickley and her colleagues used a complex computer model developed by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, with further changes devised by her team at Harvard. It takes known elements such as the sun’s luminosity, the earth’s topography, the distribution of the oceans, the pull of gravity and the tilt of the earth’s axis, and figures in variables provided by researchers.

Mickley gradually increased levels of greenhouse gases at rates projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group charged by the United Nations to study future climate variation. Her model looked at the effect the changing climate would have on the concentrations of two pollutants: black carbon particles -- essentially soot -- and carbon monoxide, which could also indicate ozone levels. When the model first indicated that future climate change would lead to higher pollution in the Northeast and Midwest, Mickley and her colleagues were a bit surprised.

"The answer lies in one of the basic forces that drive the Earth’s weather: the temperature difference between the hot equator and the cold poles," Mickley says.

Between those extremes, the atmosphere acts as a heat distribution system, moving warmth from the equator toward the poles. Over mid-latitudes, low-pressure systems and accompanying cold fronts are one way for heat to be redistributed. These systems carry warm air poleward ahead of fronts and draw down cooler air behind fronts.

In the future, that process could slow down. As the globe warms, the poles are expected to warm more quickly than the equator, decreasing the temperature difference between the poles and the equator. The atmosphere would then have less heat to redistribute and would generate fewer low-pressure systems.

With fewer cold fronts sweeping south to break up hot stagnant air over cities, the air would sit in place, gathering pollutants. Mickley’s model shows the length of these pollution episodes would increase significantly, even doubling in some locations.

Mickley’s collaborators include Daniel J. Jacob and B. D. Field at Harvard and D. Rind of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Steve Bradt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.harvard.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ

nachricht The Wadden Sea and the Elbe Studied with Zeppelin, Drones and Research Ships
19.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht - Zentrum für Material- und Küstenforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Glycosylation: Mapping Uncharted Territory

21.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?

21.09.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>