Tiny Pollutants Intensify Storms in the Amazon


Ultrafine aerosol particles found in polluted urban air can contribute to more intense storms in the Amazon rainforest, with potential knock-on effects for weather and climate patterns in the region and beyond, researchers have warned.

Particles smaller than 50 nanometres in diameter have a substantial influence on cloud formation in the Amazon. In turn, the rainforest has a strong influence on climate regulation worldwide, and aerosol effects observed in this region could also trigger climate shiftsglobally, according to a study published in Science.

Although it has long been known that aerosols could play an important role in shaping regional weather patterns, ultrafine particles were thought to be too small to affect the formation of clouds. This has now been overturned by the new study, at least in the specific circumstances of the Amazon.

“These tiny particles were thought to be too small to aid droplet formation”, says meteorologist Luiz Augusto Machado, from the Brazilian Institute for Space Research’s Center for Weather Forecasting and Climate Studies, and one of the study’s authors. “Now we verified that their presence is one reason why some storms become so strong and produce so much rain in Amazon region.”

Read more at SciDev.Net

Image: Clouds above Amazon rainforest Copyright: Sophie Fauset