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Scientists are working to understand the role that Asian air pollution plays in California’s weather — and on the phenomenon of global warming and hurricanes. Massive plumes of dust, soot and particles sweep across the Pacific Ocean and impact weather here.

The Christian Science Monitor details the ongoing two-month study of Asian pollution being led by a scientist from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

Reporter Peter Spotts writes:

Soot from Asia that reaches the West Coast accounts for 80 percent of the black-carbon soot in the skies over the United States, notes Veerabhadran Ramanathan, director of the Center for Clouds, Chemistry, and Climate at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. More generally, natural and man-made particles in the plumes represent the single most vexing problem atmospheric scientists face as they strive to understand the handful of outside factors, or “forcings,” that affect Earth’s climate system.

Aerosols, soot, and dust collectively “are the big gorilla at the table,” Dr. Ramanathan says.

These particles have a direct effect on global and regional climate by intercepting sunlight and radiating it back into space. Over the Pacific on a clear day, the plumes can cut sunlight reaching the ocean surface by 10 to 15 percent, scientists say.

ROB DAVIS

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