A new study claims Europe’s decades-long battle to reduce air pollution in its major cities, rather ironically, may be accelerating the Arctic ice melt.
While man-made global warming is the main driver of a warming Arctic, the study argues European regulations to cut air pollution has lessened the amount of particles to reflect incoming solar radiation. This causes warming to accelerate, according to researchers.
Scandinavian scientists wrote in their study Arctic “warms by 0.5 [degrees Celsius] on annual average in simulations with declining European sulfur emissions in line with historical observations, compared with a model simulation with fixed European emissions at 1980 levels.”
“We conclude that air quality regulations in the Northern Hemisphere, the ocean and atmospheric circulation, and Arctic climate are inherently linked,” the scientists wrote in their study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The basic idea is that air particles, called aerosols, tend to have a cooling effect over areas where they are concentrated. That’s because they reflect incoming solar radiation away from the Earth’s surface, thereby causing some cooling. For decades, the shield of European air pollution above the Arctic has been whittled away, accelerating warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
Aerosols can have a very powerful effect on global average temperature. For example, the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 had a very noticeable cooling effect on the planet, and some scientists even argued increased volcanic eruptions caused the recent “hiatus” in warming.
“This paper presents compelling evidence that reductions in emissions of sulphate particles in Europe have contributed to amplified warming trends in the Arctic,” climate scientist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, who wasn’t involved in the study, told the global warming news site Carbon Brief.
The study’s authors, however, don’t argue against cutting air pollutants. They claim cutting air pollution has saved numerous lives.
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