How Does Air Pollution affect the Climate?

In this blog post, we will discuss “How does air pollution affect the climate?” Firstly, we will discuss the basics of air pollution. It will be followed by the importance of climate and a brief introduction to the main climate zones of the Earth. Then, the article will talk about the impact of air pollution on the climate. In the end, the article will provide detailed solutions to mitigate air pollution.

How does air pollution affect the climate?

Air pollution affects the climatic conditions of the regions. Industrial emissions and greenhouse gases (GHGs) have disrupted the climate conditions around the world. These conditions have given rise to various respiratory diseases. The three main climate zones on the Earth are as follows:

  • Tropical
  • Temperate
  • Polar

Let’s first understand the basics of air pollution.

What is air pollution?

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health. 

What is Outdoor and Indoor pollution?

Air pollution in the outside environment is called outdoor pollution. The examples of outdoor pollution are as follows:

  • Transportation
  • Combustion of fossil fuel
  •  Cooking activities
  • Energy generation and consumption
  • Agriculture
  •  Improper Solid Waste Management
  • Industries and factories
  • Household pollution
  • Celebrations
  • Construction and demolition

Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution. The examples of indoor pollution are as follows:

  • Household activities 
  • Perfumes and fresheners 
  • Cooking fuel/activities
  • Cigarette 
  • Radon 
  • Poor ventilation 
  • Uncleaned furniture 
  • Pets 
  • Asbestos

 There are two leading causes of air pollution- natural pollution (happened due to natural events like dust storms) and anthropogenic pollution (happened due to human activities like combustion of fossil fuels).

Now, let’s understand the basics of climate.

What is a climate?

Climate is a larger pattern that aids us all in learning about weather. The mean average weather determines the region’s climate in a specific location over a prolonged period. Several factors can differ climates from one place to another. The climate of an area is also decided by its geographical conditions. The air masses are also associated with the particular area. An air mass means a large body of air that has about the same temperature, humidity (moisture), and pressure across it.

However, we often get confused with weather and climate; let’s sort out that confusion.

While the weather is a short-term condition, the climate is the average daily weather for a prolonged period at a particular location. Weather is influenced by temperature, pressure, humidity, and cloudiness, whereas climate is affected by winds, sunlight, humidity, temperature, etc.

The Earth has three main climate zones:

Tropical

The climate zone near the equator with warm air masses is called the tropical zones. In this zone, the average temperature in the coldest month is 18 °C. However, this temperature is warmer than the average temperature of the warmest month in the polar zone—an example of a nation in the tropical zone in Brazil.

Polar

The North and South poles of the Earth lie in the polar zone. This is because of adjacent cold air masses. In this climate zone, the warmest months’ average is lower than 10 °C. This is lower than the average temperature of the coldest months in the tropical zones.

Temperate

The zone located between the two poles and the equator is known as the temperate zone. The average temperature of the coldest months in this zone is lower than that of the tropical zones. In comparison, the average temperature of the warmest months in the temperate zone is higher than that of the polar zone—an example of a nation in the temperate zone in Canada.

In tropical and polar climate zones, the weather conditions are steady throughout the year. However, in the temperate climate zone, the weather conditions are affected by warm and cold air masses at different times of the year. Thus the weather changes with the seasons.

Even if weather and climates are technically different terms, these two concepts are intertwined with each other. The climatic conditions are dependent on the weather.

Let’s see how air pollution affects the climate.

Impact of air pollution on climate 

Climate, an integral part of the environment, is significant for living matters around the world. Proper global temperatures, adequate precipitations, and sufficient wind speeds can produce good crop yields, water supplies and maintain an appropriate balance in biodiversity. It also keeps good human health. So let’s see how air pollution impacts climate.

Air pollution has shaken the balance of our ecosystem. Since the stone age, humankind has always strived hard to achieve stability and comfort in their life. Finally, we succeeded, which led to the industrial revolution, followed by urbanization and much-needed changes in the lifestyle.

However, in the process of progression, somewhere we left behind the great values of nature, we forgot the support and symbiotic existence of the environment. While human inventions, no doubt, have always helped us to save our lives, it has also given birth to much inevitable stuff. One such thing is air pollution. Due to artificial air pollution, the climatic conditions have been messed up.

Research conducted by atmospheric scientists at the University of Utah established that the air in the Arctic region, lying in the polar zone, is susceptible to air pollution. This is because the particulate matter generated from the combustion of fossil fuels can stimulate the Arctic cloud formation. The researchers further said that these clouds could act as a blanket and warm the Arctic region of the polar zone.

Back in 1870, explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld was trekking across Greenland’s barren and remote ice cap. At that time, he saw a rather unpleasant landscape- a sky full of haze. Tim Garrett, University of Utah atmospheric scientist, and his colleagues stated that anthropogenic or man-made pollution gets dispersed northward as the dominant circulation pattern to move from lower latitudes towards the pole. Once the pollution reaches the Arctic regions, it gets stuck under the temperature inversions. Same such phenomena are observed in the Salt Lake City experiences every winter. Inversion is the condition in which a cap of warm air settles on the cool air layer. This condition prevents the escape of polluted air.

Garrett has also stated that Northeast Asia and northern Europe is significant contributor. While in the other parts of the world, the clouds can cool the surface because of their white colour. In addition, the white colour reflects solar energy into space.

However, this doesn’t work in the Arctic regions. The Arctic clouds have a potential warming effect. The cooling effect doesn’t work in such areas because the sea-ice at the surface is already bright. They further stated that the clouds could reflect the radiations efficiently. They can also absorb radiation capably and re-emit that energy back to warm the surface.

Droplets of water accumulate around the particulates in the atmosphere. This makes clouds that warm the surface. Garrett further stated that particulate pollution released from ship routes and industries should be mitigated to save polar caps.

Air pollution from Europe and North America are creating a lot of issues. Air pollution has caused drier spells in such tropical regions. Apart from the greenhouse gases(GHG)- the ones who trap the heat and make the climate warm, there are harmful gaseous contaminants such as atmospheric sulphate and nitrate aerosols which can change the climatic conditions in the tropical and other zones. These pollutants are caused due to combustion of fossil fuels. They have the capability of reflecting solar radiations and thus causing indirect disruption to the cloud formation.

Many ecologists have notably said that sediment and ice cores, tree rings, and rocks are god-given climate indicators. One such observation regarding the stalagmites in a cave in Belize in Central America was published in Nature Geoscience. Stalagmites are the ones that grow upwards from the ground as the dripping water filtered through the rock above.

Geologists have found out a distinct drying trend in Belize since 1850. This trend was linear with the rise of industrial emissions from North America and Europe. Thus, this presented strong evidence that industrial emissions containing sulphate aerosols have lifted the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) position by reflecting the Sun’s received radiation. Also, it is moderating the warming in the northern hemisphere. The ITCZ is a belt of monsoon rainfall encircling the Earth near the equator that travels seasonally between the hemispheres. Significantly, the appropriate temperature difference between the hemispheres plays a vital role in controlling the position of the ITCZ. The regular position of the ITCZ regulates the rainfall distribution in the tropical zone.

In other words, the industrial emissions containing sulphate aerosols have disturbed the relative temperature difference between the two hemispheres, which is responsible for holding the ITCZ. This monsoon boosting belt has moved southward. Thus, the north part of the tropical zone receives less rainfall. Thus, the introduction of sulphur aerosols in the upper atmosphere damages the temperatures and rainfall conditions in the tropical zone.

Apart from controlling the artificial emissions, environmentalists claim that it is necessary to take care of tropical forests. Tropical forests like Amazon are the lungs of the planet- they act as giant air purifiers of the world. These forests can influence the global air, water and nutrient cycle. However, its deforestation will create a warmer environment globally and intensify the effects of fatal airborne pollutants. Thus, it is necessary to globally make efforts to conserve tropical forests to control the impact of air pollution.

The countries of temperate zones face similar issues. The ever-growing burning of fossil fuels has caused concern in Australia. Around 3000 premature deaths happen every year in this nation due to exposure to burning fossil fuels and industrial pollutants. Such pollutants have significantly changed the climatic system of this nation. There is an upsurge in the cases of asthma and hay fever cases because of aeroallergens in the atmosphere.

The aeroallergens are connected to climatic conditions. Besides, increased levels of carbon dioxide in the air probably cause allergenic plants to produce more pollen. One of the primary reasons for the increase of respiratory diseases in temperate zones is the intense heatwaves and extended summer season in such regions. The warming of the climate favours the increasing duration of the pollen season.

Medical officials fear that an extreme condition such as an asthma epidemic can arise if the hot and humid conditions collide with storms. Such variations in climate can cause grass pollens to break into tiny fragments. Thus, many citizens in a country like Australia can be exposed to these microscopic pollen fragments quickly. One such episode happened in Melbourne in November 2016.

Thus, the bottom line is that pollutions caused due to human activities should be rigorously controlled to maintain harmony and existence on the earth. There should be community efforts to create awareness about the impact of our actions on Earth’s climatic conditions. World leaders and local governments should implement policies to reduce carbon emissions. The local authorities should also install more monitoring stations to examine the air pollutants and their association with the climate. After all, if we, as one, reduce air pollution and its influence on the climate, then we can indeed fight climate change.

Further below, I am giving you detailed solutions to fight air pollution.

What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

  • You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt. 
  • You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
  • You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
  • You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. 

Physical Exercise 

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise 

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. 

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet 

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are: 

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion. 
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up. 
  • Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat. 
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional. 
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress. 

Masks I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees. 

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways 

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones. 

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation 

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance. 

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity. 

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air. 

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste 

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US. 

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators. 

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators. 

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week. 

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated. 

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows: 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available 
Blueair Pure 121Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers 

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

How does air pollution cause acid rain?

How does air pollution affect the economy?

How Does Air Pollution Affect the Immune System?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “How does air pollution affect the climate?” Firstly, we discussed the basics of air pollution.  It was followed by the importance of climate and a brief introduction to the main climate zones of the Earth. Then, the article talked about the impact of air pollution on the climate. In the end, the article provided detailed solutions to mitigate air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How does air pollution affect the climate?

What are the effects of air pollution?

The effects of air pollution are as follows:

  • Degrading human health
  • Global Warming
  • Acid Rain
  • Eutrophication
  • Depletion of Ozone Layer

Does pollution worsen with climate change?

Yes, air pollution worsens with climate change. Air pollution contributes to climate change, and at the same time, climate change also intensifies it. Air pollutants such as carbon dioxide and methane raise the earth’s temperature and warm the climate.

What are the harmful effects of pollution?

The harmful effects of pollution are increased threat of respiratory infections, heart diseases, and lung cancer. In addition, long-term exposure to air pollution can make you severely ill.

How does pollution influence weather in urban areas?

The high particulate concentrations in urban areas reduce visibility by both scattering and absorbing light. Besides, some particles can develop into clouds and form acid rains. Moreover, air pollution can affect weather patterns.

Is pollution worse in summer or winter?

Air pollution can be worse in both seasons; it depends upon the type of prevalent pollution. The atmospheric conditions which create weather can also affect the air quality. These atmospheric conditions are:

  • Air pressure
  • Temperature
  • Humidity

Can snow get polluted?

Yes, snow can get polluted. Snowfall may absorb pollutants like dirt, pesticides, and other contaminants present in the air. However, the pollutant levels may be below toxic levels. This level depends upon the area type—urban or rural areas and the activities happening around.

Reference

Air Quality and Climate Change. Air Quality and Climate Change | UCAR Center for Science Education. Available at: https://scied.ucar.edu/learning-zone/air-quality/air-quality-and-climate-change  

Arctic clouds are highly sensitive to air pollution. ScienceDaily. Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180103101136.htm  

Global Canopy, 2019. Why tropical forests are crucial to beat Air Pollution. Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/global-canopy/why-tropical-forests-are-crucial-to-beat-air-pollution-b208280b841d  

Harriet Ridley PhD researcher, 2015. Air pollution from Europe and America is making the tropics drier. The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/air-pollution-from-europe-and-america-is-making-the-tropics-drier-37395  

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