Trans-pacific air pollution is worse than was suspected,says new study

UC Davis researchers will report today that rising industrialization in Asia is discharging millions of tons of previously undetected contaminants annually into the winds that travel across the Pacific Ocean. These aerosols make people sick and destroy crops in Asia, may be polluting American waters and could dramatically change global climate.

Besides releasing these first results of the University of California Pacific Rim Aerosol Network, the researchers will also describe their role in the forthcoming ACE-Asia project. ACE-Asia, for Aerosol Characterization Experiment, will be the world's largest attempt to identify the exact sources and destinations of those tiny particles of dust, sulfate and organic matter. This information does not exist for much of Asia and is badly needed by scientists trying to generate reliable predictions of global climate change.

"Previous research has shown that every spring there are massive dust storms in Asia that transport soil eastward to Japan and across the Pacific to the United States. Now we've found that sulfate and organic aerosols are also present, and in roughly the same amounts," said Thomas Cahill, a UC Davis professor emeritus of physics and atmospheric science and an international authority on the atmospheric transport of pollutants.

"That is very important for several reasons. First, the northern Pacific Ocean is one of the last really clean areas of the Northern Hemisphere. If we start to pollute the air above that ocean, we'll change the balance of heating and cooling of the ocean and that will produce changes in the weather.

"Second, there are increasing numbers of reports of what appear to be toxic Asian pollutants in the lakes and streams of North America.

"Finally, and perhaps most important, there is an established link between aerosol levels and rates of illness and death in people. Working with our Asian c

Contact: Sylvia Wright
University of California - Davis

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