It’s Official: Pollution Contributes to Tornadoes and Hailstorms

climate change, pollution, hebrew university of jerusalem, extreme weather, pollution

Unless you are a really big fan of tornadoes and hailstorms, it’s time to ditch the car (or at least carpool), grab a bus, or pick up your bicycle.

For so long scientists were reluctant to draw relationships between increased pollutants in our atmosphere and certain climate change events. Bill McKibben and others started warning us decades ago, but even the slightest slip up and those unwilling to accept that human beings have altered the planet’s weather mechanism close in on researchers who typically have nothing to profit from their work.

Which may explain why it has taken this long for scientists to conclude that tornados and hailstorms are more likely to occur (in wet countries) when pollution levels are high. It’s not clear that knowledge alone will save us from climate change, but we have to give it a try.

Stormy weather

According to the National Geographic, “Scientists analyzed summertime storm activity in the eastern U.S. from 1995 to 2009 using data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center.”

They discovered in the densely populated eastern United States that hailstorms and tornadoes are 20% more likely to occur in the middle of the week. And then on the weekend, the chance that storms will occur drops by 20%.

These findings are “statistically significant” and  in line with other storm cycles, according to the study.

Mid-week woes

The research group then analyzed data from the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which shows that air quality deteriorates in the middle of the week when more cars are on the road, and improves on the weekend when traffic is considerably reduced.

Although increased pollutants in the atmosphere cause heavy storms in the Eastern United States, the same phenomenon has the opposite effect in dry areas.

Ditch the car

According to a press release issued by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which worked with University of Maryland researchers, “increases in air pollution and other particulate matter in the atmosphere can strongly affect cloud development in ways that reduce precipitation in cool and relatively dry regions, such as Israel in winter, but can also increase rain and the intensity of severe storms in warm and moist regions or season.”

Few studies have shown so unequivocally the direct relationship between fossil-powered vehicles and weather events, giving us yet another reason to ditch the cars, catch a bus or train, or pick up our bicycles.

:: National Geographic

image via Fanndango, Morguefile

More on climate change:

Can Knowledge Save us from Climate Change?

Wintertime Droughts Increase Due to Climate Change

#COP17Fail: Climate Change is a One Size Fits All Problem

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One thought on “It’s Official: Pollution Contributes to Tornadoes and Hailstorms”

  1. JTR says:

    Given their obviously innate corruptability, I no longer see any way to change human behavior in time to avert several environmental catastrophes. I hope some people are creating some sort of cultural sanctuary somewhere safe, if that’s possible. We know about the Maya and the ancient Egyptians because of their stone carvings.

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