New research led by Jiwen Fan of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory suggests that pollution is warming the atmosphere through summer thunderstorm clouds. The computational study was published May 10 in Geophysical Research Letters.
Pollution strengthens thunderstorm clouds, which causes the tops of the clouds to spread out high in the atmosphere and capture heat, particularly at night. “Global climate models don’t see this effect because thunderstorm clouds simulated in those models do not include enough detail,” said Fan. “The large amount of heat trapped by the pollution-enhanced clouds could potentially impact regional circulation and modify weather systems.”
Source: PNNL press release, May 18, 2012.