Global Warming: Scientists Have Grossly Underestimated the Effects of Air Pollution

Global Warming: Scientists Have Grossly Underestimated the Effects of Air Pollution


Global warming has been an issue for our planet for the past few decades. The steady and long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate has been affecting our ecosystem in a very fast pace and will continue to do so in the years to come unless drastic changes are made.

The biggest causes of the “Greenhouse effect” are mainly manmade, as they are caused by certain gases which are released into our atmosphere and then proceed to block heat from escaping, resulting in a forced climate change. Greenhouse gases are the main contributors to this fact.

Have we underestimated the effects of aerosols?

Recently, Professor Daniel Rosenfeld of Hebrew University in Jerusalem published a new study on the effects of air pollution which caused a lot of worry in the scientific field. The study, published in the journal “Science”, has a lot to say about the degree in which aerosol particles have been cooling the earth and how that effect has been vastly underestimated.

Aerosols are both solid and liquid particles which are produced by volcanoes naturally and also artificially through man-made pollutants. Aerosols help create a dimming effect in the atmosphere by blocking the harmful sun rays from reaching the Earth’s surface. This can help cool down our environment by enhancing the cloud cover and increasing the reflection of unprotected sunlight and therefore heat back into space.

Clouds tend to form when the wind rises and cools. Aerosols, however, play a very important role in how certain clouds are actually formed. When more aerosol particles are released into the air, they become incorporated into shallow clouds and can help them retain more water in the form of small droplets.

When these droplets bind together, they allow for rain to happen. Small droplets take longer to bind together and therefore, more time and a larger amount of small droplets is needed in order for rain to form. Aerosol particles allow shallow clouds to contain a larger amount of small droplets and therefore these clouds live in the sky for a longer period of time and also help cover a much larger area of the Earth’s surface by providing more shade.

As a result, the aerosol-“polluted” clouds reflect more heat and solar energy back into space and therefore contribute to cooling the Earth’s temperature for a much longer period of time. Up to this point though, no one was certain of the extent to which aerosols help cool down the Earth’s overall temperature as there was no solid way in measuring their effect.

Professor Rosenfeld and his colleague Yannian Zhu from the Meteorological Institute of Shaanxi Province in China have developed an innovative method which allows them to use satellite images in order to calculate the effect of vertical winds and also the numbers of small droplets in aerosol clouds.

This process allows them to better calculate the cooling effects of aerosols and aerosol clouds on the Earth and provide the scientific community with a much clearer image of the Earth’s cooling. This has helped them discover that the cooling effect is in fact nearly two times higher than we previously considered it to be.

Is this news positive or negative?

Despite this discovery, it is not a secret that the Earth’s temperature keeps rising at an alarming rate. If we take into consideration the large effect that we now know aerosols have in cooling down our planet, there is only one thing left to consider; the warming effect of greenhouse gases has in fact been much greater than we originally estimated.

This is quite a scary discovery for many different reasons. First of all, the greenhouse gas emissions appear to easily overcome the cooling effect of aerosols. This can result in the scientific community discovering a much greater impact on the current amount of global warming.

The fact that our planet’s overall temperature keeps rising despite the fact that aerosols are trying to cool it down should make us all pay even closer attention to the effects of our actions. Professor Rosenfeld has hypothesized that apart from the fact that greenhouse emissions overcome the cooling effects of aerosols, there is also a possibility that aerosols themselves can contribute to a warming effect when they lodge in “deep clouds” which are located 10 or more kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

A common action has been taking place by Israel’s Space Agency and France’s National Centre for Space Studies in order to develop new satellites which will allow them to better investigate this deep-cloud phenomenon situation and get a better understanding of how this can impact the future of the Earth’s temperature. The principal investigator in this partnership is Professor Rosenfeld.

What does the future hold for our planet?

No matter how we view this discovery, the results are the same. The current global climate predictions we have do not take into consideration the correct effects of aerosols on clouds on Earth’s overall temperature levels. We will need further information and research in order to be able to correctly calculate this situation and know the full extent of our actions in regards to the planet’s temperature.

Based on Professor Rosenfeld’s recalculations, the scientific field will have to rethink the way the global warming predictions were made. Currently, there is a prediction of 1.5 to 4.5-degree Celsius increase in Earth’s overall temperature by the end of the 21st century. When further information on the new discoveries has been collected, they shall be able to make a much more accurate and controlled prediction.

In any case, that does not mean that we should care less or pay less attention to how we contribute to this effect. The climate change does not only affect the sea levels, the melting of glaciers and the lives of animals and plants from all around the world but it also very well affects our daily lives. Soon, we will be experiencing even worse temperature changes, droughts and floods which will decrease the quality of our everyday lives. We all need to realize that it is in our hands to make a significant change for the better.

About the Author:

Pauline speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian and currently she works as a translator at translation service TheWordPoint. She travelled the world to immerse herself in the new cultures and learn languages. Today she is proud to be a voting member of the American Translators Association and an active participant of the Leadership Council of its Portuguese Language Division.

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