Study finds cleaner air leads to more Atlantic hurricanes


From the article:

Cleaner air in United States and Europe is brewing more Atlantic hurricanes, a new U.S. government study found.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study links changes in regionalized air pollution across the globe to storm activity going both up and down. A 50% decrease in pollution particles and droplets in Europe and the U.S. is linked to a 33% increase in Atlantic storm formation in the past couple decades, while the opposite is happening in the Pacific with more pollution and fewer typhoons, according to the study published in Wednesday’s Science Advances.

Since it’s NOAA, I put more stock into what’s asserted than otherwise.

How will this impact addressing climate change going forward, do we think? I’m not sanguine.

Even the report pretty much says, it is still about reducing warming. The pollution has a cooling effect, but most of the issue is still more heat (more energy),

On top of that, I’ll just quote this from the end of the article:

But as much as more hurricanes in the Atlantic can be a problem, the death from extra storms don’t compare to the seven million people a year globally who die from air pollution, said University of Washington public health professor Kristie Ebi, who studies health, climate and extreme weather.

“Air pollution is a major killer, so reducing emissions is critical no matter what happens with the number of cyclones,” said Ebi, who wasn’t part of the study.

So reduce pollution and slow or stop climate change still has to be the goal.

In one sense this is not really news (in the sense of being “new”) as it was known for a long time that cleaner air (specifically, the reduction in aerosols due to anti-pollution measures) also removes some of the damping effect of these aerosols on surface solar insolation and thus accelerates warming. This is also why global warming was relatively flat between roughly 1940 and 1980, and then took off with unprecedented ferocity.

The thing is that even if we were willing to start polluting the atmosphere again, it would be only a very temporary stopgap to very briefly forestall the inevitable, which can only be addressed by stopping recklessly pumping billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Most of those pollutants are killers – dangerous to our environment and to human, animal,. and plant life – like nitrogen oxides and sulfate aerosols that poison our environment and decays our buildings and infrastructures by creating acid rain, for instance. Many hundreds of thousands of people die every year due to pulmonary diseases linked to air pollution. My own view (and basically backed up by the IPCC) is that so-called “geo-engineering” to manage climate change is essentially deliberate pollution and is both ineffective in the long term and really nothing short of insanity.

I haven’t read the detailed report but I’m a little surprised that the conclusion is that cleaner air, leading to faster warming, creates more Atlantic hurricanes rather than just more powerful ones. The prevailing view thus far is that a warming planet will create more energetic hurricanes, but not necessarily a greater number, because climate instability will have disruptive effects on hurricane formation. But when they do form, the increasingly warmer ocean surface temperatures will tend to make them more powerful and longer lasting, most notably in the Atlantic basin.

In any case, the only solution lies in drastically reducing our GHG emissions, especially CO2.

Clean air is worth any amount of hurricanes.