Air Pollution in China Contributing to Drought — Food Shortages Possible

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smog-china-pollution-rainfall-draught.jpgSevere air pollution in China’s heavily industrialized east is impeding the formation of rain clouds and contributing to a drought in northern China, according to a new study. The study, which looked at rainfall and pollution patterns for the past 50 years, concluded that pollution has reduced the number of days of light rain in eastern China by 23 percent.

Atmospheric scientist Yun Qian of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory said that the large number of aerosols in China’s polluted skies has led to the formation of rain droplets that are up to 50 percent smaller than rain droplets in clean skies. The smaller droplets do not as readily form rain clouds, which means that lighter rainfalls valuable to agriculture — ranging from a drizzle to accumulations of .4 inch per day — are occurring less frequently, according to the study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

Qian said his research “suggests that reducing air pollution might help ease the drought in north China.” Meanwhile, a new U.N. study says major improvements in irrigation efficiency are needed to avoid large-scale food shortages that would effect 1.5 billion people in China, India, and Pakistan.

Appearing courtesy of Yale Environment 360.

[photo credit: Flickr]

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