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Study: Asian Pollution Intensifies North American Storms

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A girl wears a mask during a smog alert in Beijing, China. STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A girl wears a mask during a smog alert in Beijing, China. STR/AFP/Getty Images)

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SEATTLE (CBS Seattle) – According to a recent study, pollution from China’s coal-burning power plants is pumping up winter storms over the northwest Pacific Ocean and changing North America’s weather.

The study found that Northwest Pacific winter storms are 10 percent stronger than before Asian countries began their industrial boom, which was 30 years ago.

“North America will be hardest hit by the intensifying storms, which move from west to east,” Yuan Wang, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and lead author on the study, told Live Science. “The increasing pollution in Asian countries is not just a local problem; it can affect other parts of the world.”

China is now the world’s largest coal consumer, and aerosol emissions have increased across Asia. China’s air pollution levels have passed the World Health Organization’s limit by more than 400 times.

The researchers analyzed how pollution particles in Asia form clouds and storms that spin up each winter east of Japan. They then created a computer model of six kinds of aerosol pollution and tested their effects on clouds, precipitation, and global weather patterns.

“Pollution from Asia is also changing weather patterns over North America,” Wang added.

Wang suggests that this winter’s unusually cold weather east of the Rocky Mountains could have been influenced by the pollution. “This cold winter in the U.S. probably had something to do with stronger cyclones over the Pacific,” Wang said.

Wang went on to say that he and the other researchers will be testing with more sophisticated computer models to better understand the effects of stronger storms and pollution on global weather patterns.

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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