Climate change deniers may have been unintentionally presented with a gift horse, as a strange and depressing new study links pollution to hurricanes, but not in the way you may have expected.
Simulations conducted by researchers at the UK Met Office show that tropical storms were a lot less frequent during periods when the amount of man-made pollution being put into the atmosphere was higher. In short, this suggests that the more pollution we put out there, the better guarded we are against devastating hurricanes like Superstorm Sandy.
That climate change, caused by man-made pollution, increases the likelihood of experiencing devastating weather patterns has long been a lynch pin assumption for the argument.
“Increases in anthropogenic emissions (particularly of aerosols) through most of the last century is found to have reduced hurricane activity,” study co-author Ben Booth told the AFP. “The cooling impact of man-emitted aerosols may have had a more important regional impact on climate than we previous appreciated.”
Ocean warming creates the perfect setting for tropical storms to emerge, and it has long been assumed that man-made pollution has contributed to the planet’s overall warming trend. But the new study showed that measures taken since the 80s to reduce pollution have also increased hurricane activity.
“The clean-up of industrial aerosols in the last 20 years, while being beneficial for human health and linked to a recovery of African Sahel rains since the 1980s droughts, may have contributed to increases in Atlantic hurricane activity,” said Booth.
The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, is the first to show the link between aerosols and Atlantic tropical storms.
The research team suggested that in the future, Earth-warming greenhouse gases will exert the most influence on tropical storm strength and frequency, as they are much longer-lasting that man-made aerosols.
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