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Pollution from China alters weather in U.S. West – CBS News

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57341838/pollution-from-china-alters-w
eather-in-u.s-west/

CBS News  A U.N. conference on climate change ended Sunday without a major
deal to cut toxic emissions. No country emits more carbon dioxide than China
— a byproduct of its booming economy. And, as CBS News correspondent John
Blackstone reports, those Chinese emissions are having a big impact in the
U.S.

Chinese officials insist the murky air over Beijing this month is just fog.
But measurements taken at the U.S. embassy there show dangerously high
levels of air pollution — so bad that traffic has been disrupted and
flights have been delayed or cancelled.

“It’s no longer just their problem; it’s our problem,” said Kim Prather of
the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Prather studies atmospheric chemistry. CBS News met her at a scientific
conference in San Francisco, where she was presenting research that shows
what’s in the air over China can affect the weather in America.

“The atmosphere has no walls,” she said. “So pollution on this side of the
world can make it the other side of the world in about five days.”

The Chinese pollution is carried by the jet stream across the Pacific. In
the atmosphere over this country, it can stop the clouds from producing rain
and snow.

In general, Prather said, the equation is more pollution equals less
precipitation.

The particles of air pollution from China collect moisture in the clouds.
But the particles are so small and numerous they don’t get heavy enough to
fall as rain or snow. So the water stays in the clouds.

But while flying over California collecting atmospheric samples, Prather
found something else from China that may make up for much of that lost rain.
It’s dust — from huge storms in China’s vast deserts.

Because of their chemical makeup and larger size, those dust particles do
collect enough moisture to make rain and snow.

“We found that wherever there was dust, there was ice,” Prather said. “And
then below us was snow.”

Understanding the factors that influence California’s rain and snow is
important because what falls in the mountains is the main water source for
most of the state’s 37 million people.

“We’re working with the weather guys to try and see this climate-weather
link with pollution,” Prather said. “It’s a complex problem.”

By unraveling those complexities, Prather’s research could improve the
accuracy of weather forecasting — explaining why some clouds just blow over
while others produce snow storms.

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