Energy

Pollution From Humanity Keeps Tropical Cyclones At Bay

REUTERS/NOAA/Handout via Reuters

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter
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New research published in the journal Science shows that human pollution known as aerosols actually have a role in the low number of tropical cyclones globally.

Aerosols are airborne particles that hold a small amount of solid matter and can come from natural sources, like volcanoes, but they also come from human activity like burning wood and use of fossil fuels.

The notion was that as the Earth warms, tropical cyclones (also known as hurricanes) would increase. But the number of hurricanes has actually been decreasing, thanks at least in some part to humanity’s aerosol pollution, according to a press release republished on Watts Up With That Friday.

Aerosols act as a mirror, reflecting sunlight back into space and therefore have a cooling effect. As greenhouse emissions continue to rise and the temperature of Earth along with it, it was expected that more hurricanes would be the norm. But aerosols are able to effectively temper the warming and keep hurricane activity low.

Other sources of aerosol pollution come from the ocean, windblown dust and volcanic eruptions, according to a report by the University of Wyoming.

The saturation of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere recently passed 400 parts per million for the first time in 4 million years, according to Climate Central. Despite the growing accumulation of the greenhouse gas, Earth has been spared the resulting projected increase in hurricanes.

In the U.S., hurricane activity is the lowest in recorded history. CNS News reported in October 2015, using data from NOAA, that no major hurricane has made landfall in the U.S. since Hurricane Wilma hit Florida in 2005. The 10-year lull in hurricane activity is the longest such streak since records began in 1851.

The same goes for the rest of the planet as well. Data compiled from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses something known as Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) to determine the intensity of combined tropical systems. The global ACE in 2012 was 129, while in 2015 it was 63. NOAA says the average ACE is 95.

However, current efforts to curb emissions with things like cleaner burning engines and fuels, as well as filters on industrial sources of pollution, started to decrease the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere. Meaning its reflective properties are also decreasing. With less reflection of the suns energy back into space, that could be a harbinger that the hurricane lull is running out of time.

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