Aerosols in clouds may decrease rainfall in southeastern China

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Washington, September 26 (ANI): A team of scientists has discovered that the presence of aerosols in clouds may hamper the amount of rainfall in heavy industrial regions of southeastern China.

The discovery was made by a University of Maryland scientist, working with climate experts from NASA, the US Department of Energy (DoE) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

According to the researchers, a heavy concentration of aerosols - tiny airborne particles of soot, dust, sulfuric acid and organic matter - can affect rainfall, air quality and the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface.

"To better understand the impact of aerosols in China is to better understand climate change worldwide," said Zhanqing Li, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science (CMPS) at Maryland and lead investigator of the project.

Li, who has conducted aerosol research in his native China for more than a decade, said that this latest effort represents the largest-ever field experiment on climate research between the United States and China.

Previous studies have shown that different types of aerosols can exhibit quite different effects on climate, according to Hongbin Chen, a professor in the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"We wanted to gather a large amount of (new) data to improve on the numerical models already in place regarding aerosol-cloud-radiation interaction," he said.

The study, which began in May 2008, started with placing remote-sensing instruments in four locations in China.

The state-of-the-art instruments were deployed under the umbrella of the DoE's Atmospheric Radiation Measurements (ARM) program.

The researchers used lidar - which sends pulsed laser signals skyward - to measure the concentrations of aerosols and how far these often-industrial byproducts might drift in the atmosphere.

Radar was used to determine the height and density of clouds in the region, while other sophisticated equipment measured solar and infrared radiation levels.

By coordinating these ground measurements with tracking data from NASA satellites, scientists also determined that aerosols could affect weather and climate across East Asia.

Li said that aerosols born in China can travel over the Pacific to the US and are even suspected of having an impact on the Asian monsoon system.

"Ultimately, aerosol research should give scientists a baseline to establish more exact definitions on the relationship between weather and climate patterns and large-scale industrializing," said Li.

"China is fast becoming the world's leading manufacturer, so the region is a perfect test bed for understanding how human activity can affect climate," he added. (ANI)

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