How does pollution affect our weather?

In this blog post, we will discuss “How does pollution affect our weather?” Firstly, we will briefly discuss air pollution. Secondly, we will address the basics of weather. Coming to the main topic, the blog will share the connection between air pollution and weather. Conversely, we will also talk about the effect of weather on the air quality in brief. In the end, the article will also provide detailed solutions to lessen air pollution.

How does pollution affect our weather?

Anthropogenic pollution can majorly affect the weather conditions of the Earth. Some of the air pollutants can cause air to warm and alter the weather conditions. In addition, the local conditions of an area can cause weather fluctuations. These are the following aspects that can affect the weather:

  • Temperature
  • Atmospheric Pressure
  • Humidity
  • Cloudiness

First, let’s know about 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).

Let’s first know about the details of the weather.

What is the weather like?

Weather is a blend of events that occur each day in the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, the weather varies in each part of the world and can alter over weeks, days, hours, and even weeks. Generally, all these blends happen in the troposphere- a part of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface.

Air pressure plays a significant role in controlling and maintaining weather conditions. Air or atmospheric pressure, in simpler words, is the weight of air molecules pressing down the Earth. Generally, when the air pressure is high, the skies turn blue and clear. This is because the high pressure leads air to fly down and spread out near the ground. Such conditions prevent cloud formation.

On the other hand, low air pressure makes the airflow together and rises it upwards. This process makes the air rise, join, and forms clouds. As a result, low air pressure can cause precipitation or rainfall, or snow.

But, we often get confused with weather and climate; let’s sort out that confusion. While the weather is a short-term condition of the atmosphere, 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.

But do you know that air pollution can also affect the weather? Let’s find out how.

Can poor air quality impact our weather?

Air pollution dramatically impacts our temperature. In addition, toxic air pollutants can contribute to unpredictable weather events. So let’s see how the air pollutants affect the various facets of the weather.

Air pollution affects the intensity of sunlight that the earth will receive. Air pollution absorbs and disperses the sunlight and reduces the light reaching the Earth. Thus, air pollution and its influence on the light cause less visibility. One of the studies published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences reported that microscopic particles could be significantly harmful. The researchers said that increased levels of fine particulate matter such as dust, dirt, soot, and ash could prevent the direct incidence of solar radiation to the Earth. In addition, such blocking of sunlight by fine particulate matter can cause cooling of the temperatures.  

As per Hao Luo et al., such reduction can affect the renewable energy sector; it could potentially affect the solar panels to gain more heat and energy to produce solar energy. Besides, low sunlight on the Earth disrupts the photosynthesis process in plants. Less sunlight can cause joint pains and bones disorders. It can also intensify mental health issues.

Scientists say that the intensity of pollutants concentrations can affect the sunlight and weather patterns. For example, researchers claimed that air pollution in Asia, Europe, and the US had lowered emissions by 60% in the pandemic times. Such a decrease in the industrialized pollutants resulted in no hazy conditions and more blue skies. The scientists also observed that cleaner and clear skies caused a much brightening of the Earth’s surface.

Some air pollutants can affect the temperatures on the earth. For example, filthy air quality can consist of air pollutants such as carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons such as methane. Such type of gases is called greenhouse gases because of their ability to absorb heat. While the naturally produced greenhouse gases (GHG) are important for maintaining suitable temperatures in our planet for the proper metabolism of the living organisms, the artificial generation of the greenhouse gases can make the temperatures unnecessarily warm by trapping the heat from the Sun in the Earth’s Atmosphere. Such unusual fluctuations in temperature can cause drastic melting of snow from the South and the North Pole.

Some toxic air pollutants cause an increase in the number of aerosols in the atmosphere. An aerosol is nothing but a suspension of microscopic solid particles, liquid droplets in the atmosphere. So, the surge of the aerosols in the air can cause more clouds formation. While researchers are still discovering the various facts of cloud formation and air pollution, some scientific studies suggest that high levels of air pollution can obstruct cloud growth. Thus, the uneven development of clouds and heat distribution can severely affect the water cycle and precipitation levels.

On the other hand, humidity can also affect air quality levels. This is because humidity impacts the rate of natural deposition of particulate matter in the atmosphere. The humidity rate also directly corresponds to the size of the particulate matter. This means that the increase in the humidity rate increases the size of particulate matter. As a result, these matters become too heavy that they fall off from the atmosphere. Such a process is called as dry deposition of particulates.

A research paper by Katrina Charles in 2008 has researched an exciting topic. Her research raises the question of whether air pollution can affect the weekend weather. The research paper stated that weather at the weekends could change in some parts of Europe. For instance, Spain’s winter weekends are sunnier, but Iceland’s are wetter.

She further noted that scientists such shocking changes are causing due to particulate pollution accumulated over the weeks due to vehicular traffic and industrial activities. Thus, meteorologists have observed that the United States gets less rainfall on the weekends, while Germany receives more precipitation at the end of the week. Similarly, air pollution also creates drier and sunny winter weekends in the United Kingdom and Western parts of France.

Arturo Sanchez-Lorenzo, a climatologist at the University of Barcelona in Spain, has noted that the emissions and smoke evolved from anthropogenic activities have affected rainfall since the 1920s. Airborne pollutants can affect raindrop formation. Besides, it can also disrupt cloud development and can delay rain. This can result in the creation of fiercer summer storms. Such kind of more ferocious summer storms can be seen in the United States. However, many scientists agree that more deep investigation is needed to establish the impact of air pollution on the weekend weather.

Another study published in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution emphasized that emissions could add to the development of cyclonic storms. A study done in Southern Australia and Germany found a direct connection between coal-fired power plant stations and extreme rainfall. Such a relationship also affects weather at 1000 km away from the initial source of pollution generation.

There is also evidence that airborne biomass particles from the emissions can initiate a chemical aging process in the atmosphere. This results in cloud condensation nuclei. Such clouds can cause less probability of rains on the Earth but can encourage high and turbulent wind speeds. Such phenomena can result in drier and more ferocious cyclones in the coastal regions.

Now, in the next section, let’s see how weather can affect air pollution.

Can weather alter air pollution levels?

Yes, weather can significantly affect air pollution levels. For example, more incredible wind speeds can disperse air pollution to another distant region. In contrast, calmer and less wind speed and the high intensity of the sunlight can cause a build-up of pollutants such as ozone. Accumulation of ozone can thus cause smog-like conditions.

Geographical conditions also help the weather to change the weather quality. For example, coastal states with vast open areas get more wind speeds, and thus air quality in such regions gets improved. However, a coastal area clubbed with mountainous terrain like Los Angeles city can experience photochemical smog conditions.

The wind direction also impacts air pollution. Wind directions can turn favorable to one part of the area and damage to the other part. For instance, the wildfire smoke generated on the West Coast can create suffocation levels of air pollution in distant regions.

The atmospheric pressure can affect the intensity of air pollution. During the high-pressure system, the airspeed lowers and creates stagnant air conditions. In comparison, low atmospheric pressure causes more precipitation and more wind conditions. This causes washing off and dispersion of the air pollutants.

 I believe that the effects of air pollution on our weather is a vicious circle; toxic contaminants can cause degradation of weather conditions. This eventually causes a determining factor of the pollution levels, and the cycle goes on. All this mess leads to a significant contributor to climate change.

But don’t worry, in the next section, I will provide practical solutions to improve the air quality.

   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 affect health?

How does air pollution harm the environment?

How does air pollution cause asthma?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “How does pollution affect our weather?” Firstly, we discussed air pollution. Secondly, we addressed the basics of weather. Coming to the main topic, the blog shared the connection between air pollution and weather. Conversely, we also talked about the effect of weather on the air quality in brief.  In the end, the article also provided detailed solutions to lessen air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How does pollution affect our weather?

Does air pollution affect weather and climate change?

Yes, air pollution affects weather and climate change. Some of the air pollutants cause the climate to warm. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide get trapped into the atmosphere, which causes excess heat and causes the climate to warm.

What are the effects of air pollution?

The effects of air pollution are:

  • Respiratory ailments
  • Problems in children development
  • Global Warming
  • Depletion of Ozone Layer
  • Effect on wildlife
  • Eutrophication

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.

References

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  

Air Quality: Clean Air: Air Pollution. Air Quality | Clean Air | Air Pollution. Available at: http://www.air-quality.org.uk/06.php  

Charles, K. How pollution influences the weekend weather. Nature (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/news.2008.1017

Does pollution affect the weather? Pollution Solutions Online. Available at: https://www.pollutionsolutions-online.com/news/air-clean-up/16/breaking-news/does-pollution-affect-the-weather/50917  

Drop-in pollution may bring hotter weather and heavier monsoons. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/13/drop-in-pollution-may-bring-hotter-weather-and-heavier-monsoons

Hao Luo, Yong Han, Chunsong Lu, Jun Yang, Yonghua Wu. Characteristics of Surface Solar Radiation under Different Air Pollution Conditions over Nanjing, China: Observation and Simulation. Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. October 2019, Volume 36, Issue 10, pp 1047–1059. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00376-019-9010-4.

How does humidity affect air pollution? Conserve Energy Future. Available at: https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/how-humidity-affect-air-pollution.php  

How weather affects air quality. How Weather Affects Air Quality | UCAR Center for Science Education. Available at: https://scied.ucar.edu/learning-zone/air-quality/how-weather-affects-air-quality  

What is weather? What is Weather? | UCAR Center for Science Education. Available at: https://scied.ucar.edu/learning-zone/how-weather-works/weather

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