Climate Science

In a Haze

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Science  04 Jul 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5629, pp. 19
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5629.19b

Intense plumes of pollution downwind of Asia (eastward) and India (southwestward) have been documented. These plumes are due largely to industrial and vehicular emissions, biomass burning, and wind-blown dust. They have a major impact on the radiative properties and chemical compositions of the atmosphere in these regions, and thus have potential environmental and climatological effects. Moreover, long-range transport can influence air quality far from the pollution sources. Several field campaigns have been conducted to measure the chemical composition, optical properties, and amount of aerosols in these plumes, and the findings have made clear how dramatic these events are.

What about the quality of the air in the region downwind of the world's biggest energy user, the United States? Quinn et al. report similar mass loadings, optical depths, and ozone concentrations in a field study done from aboard a ship off the East Coast, although there was a much higher concentration of particulate organic matter in the U.S. plume. These pollution events are severe enough that adverse effects on human health are a concern. — HJS

Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 1555 (2003).

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