How does pollution affect the rain?

In this blog post, we will discuss “How does pollution affect the rain?” Firstly, we will understand the basic information about air pollution. Then, we will also know some basic facts about rains. After that, the article will mainly focus on the effect of air pollution on rainfall. In the end, the post will provide practical solutions to minimize air pollution.

How does pollution affect the rain?

Air pollution can alter the rainfall pattern and its intensity. Poor air quality can further affect the water cycle. Pollution mainly generated from the urban and industrial areas can affect the rainfall. Along with rains, the following meteorological factors are affected due to air pollution:

  • Atmospheric Wind Speed
  • Wind Direction
  • Relative Humidity
  • Temperature
  • Sunlight

Let’s first learn 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).

What is AQI, and what levels make it unhealthy?

WHO has set up the air quality guidelines to regulate the emissions; however, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has calculated its own AQI to safeguard the public health of Americans. 

Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has determined the air quality index (AQI) to know the air quality you inhale. The table given below will show how the air quality index looks like.

Air Quality Index (AQI)Levels of Health Concern
(When the AQI is in this range)(air quality conditions are)
0 to 50Good           
51 to 100Moderate
101 to 150Unhealthy for Sensitive group
151 to 200Unhealthy
201 to 300Very Unhealthy
301 to 500Hazardous

The primary purpose of AQI is to inform residents about the impact of local air quality on their health. The Environment Protection Agency calculates the AQI for five major pollutants: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

The meaning of the Air quality index as mentioned earlier categories are as follows:

Meaning
Air quality is considered satisfactory; air pollution is of little or no risk.
Air quality is acceptable; some pollutants present in the air might be dangerous for a minority of people who are very sensitive to air pollution.
Members of sensitive groups may get ill effects. However, the general public is likely not to get affected.
This air quality level can pose a threat to everyone. However, members of sensitive people may experience more severe effects.
Emergency level of air quality; Entire population might be affected
Health alert: Every person breathing such air quality may get serious health issues.

 Thus, it is clear that excluding the first two levels are relatively good to venture out and to do various outdoor activities. However, the last three levels will give you or other adverse effects by inhaling dirty air. 

Let’s also discuss some basic facts about rainfall.

Why do you need rain?

Rains are essential for the survival of unicellular to multicellular organisms on the Earth. Everyone needs water to drink and to maintain the proper metabolism of the body. Around 71% of the earth surface is covered with water. Your body also contains approximately 60% of water.

Rains and snow are essential elements in the Earth’s water cycle. Without rains, the water bodies on the Earth wouldn’t get filled up, disrupting the water cycle. Besides, rains also help in agriculture and energy production.

In the United States, approximately 70% of the annual precipitation returns to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration. The remaining 30% goes to the streams, lakes or oceans.

Now, let’s see how air pollution affects the rains.

Effect of pollution on the rains

There is much scientific evidence proving that air pollution damages human health. Now, environmentalists worldwide claim that air pollution affects the rains. This is because poor air quality affects the intensity of rainfall. Professor Meinrat O. Andreae, director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, said that the rainfall concentration depends on the aerosol particles.

Cloud and rains form when warm, moist air rises from surface level and the water droplets condense on aerosol particles in the air. The aerosol particles are widely associated with air pollution and are often used in environmental engineering. In simpler words, aerosols are incredibly tiny particles either in solid or minute liquid droplets found suspended in the atmosphere. These aerosols often contain pollutants such as smoke and particulate matter. The composition of the aerosol is the deciding factor of the intensity of pollutants concentration.

Aerosols act like a sunscreen lotion applied to your body- it reduces the amount of solar energy reaching the ground surface. As a result, this reduces the quantity of water evaporating to form rain clouds. Also, aerosols are needed for the generation of clouds. However, the scientists observed that if so many aerosols were present in the atmosphere, they never reached the critical mass required to fall to Earth as rain. This also happens as inadequate water is shared between all the aerosol particles. In direct words, air pollution disturbs the proper mechanism of the water cycle, which leads to disruption in precipitation.

Scientists also noted that with the increase in pollution levels, rain first rises and then reaches out at the peak. However, suddenly the rainfall sharply falls off at very high aerosol concentration. In addition, the aerosols decrease the wind speed adjacent to the Earth’s surface after low rainfall. A recent collaborative study done by Stanford University and NASA researchers noted a drastic decrease in the precipitation pattern over California.

Their paper published in Geophysical Research Letters further revealed that high aerosol content was the main reason for low rainfall at some points of the year. Besides, wind speed measurements over South Coast Basin in California displayed an average 8% decrease in rainfall. Mark Z Jacobson, an associate professor at Stanford University, explained that aerosol pollution is inversely proportional to rainfall intensity. This means that if there is more aerosol pollution, there will be a reduction in rainfall. He further stated that such a correlation could explain the decline of Asian seasonal monsoons.

V N Sharda of the Central Soil and Water Conservation and Training Institute, India, also resonated with Professor Meinrat O. Andreae of Germany regarding the theory of aerosols. V N Sharda said that aerosol particles floating in the atmosphere and near the earth surface absorb the much-needed sunlight and prevent them from traveling to the Earth. As a result, this cools down the Earth’s surface and hinders daytime vertical convention.

Such convention mixes slower winds near the ground level with the faster winds at higher altitudes. Slower winds lead to a decrease in the water bodies and thus affect the rain-cloud formation. V N Sharda essentially pointed out cooling of grounds due to aerosols reduced the evaporation of the water from the soil too. In addition, the build-up of these particles caused the clouds to last longer, but they didn’t release rains.

Jacobson from Stanford University also further revealed that generally, atmospheric water forms deposits on naturally occurring particles such as dust to form greying cotton-like fluffy clouds. However, the water is assured to create clouds by including the urban and industrial pollution has many toxic contaminants in the atmosphere.

This eventually results in the formation of smaller water droplets. These tiny water droplets take a longer time to merge and form raindrops. Too much of our horror, you may not even receive the rains because if the clouds last longer and linger in the atmosphere, they can end up dispersing to drier air zones and disappear. Thus, aerosol pollution can also result in droughts. Therefore, such research can also conclude that air pollution can also alter the monsoon pattern.

Have you heard about the acid rains?

Acid rains are also called acid precipitations. Acid precipitation is completely acidic. Acid rains are formed when sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides mix with water droplets, oxygen and other chemicals to form acidic clouds. The very reason is that these contaminants dissolve easily in water. Besides, these compounds can also be easily carried by winds. Such clouds create acidic rains. Acidic precipitation changes the soil’s pH level when it comes in contact with land surfaces and water bodies.

Acid rain is a wet type of acidic deposition that causes soil erosion and affects the ecosystem. Acidic precipitation also results in soil degradation. The soil acidic in nature decreases the ability to retain many nutrients such as calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and potassium (K). The agricultural run-off or water on the soil gets absorbed and seeps through the soil. As a result, the aquifers or groundwaters are also gets affected.

On the other hand, the acidic rain falling on the water bodies pose a significant threat to aquatic life. The constant fluctuations of water temperatures and the nutrient composition imbalances fish population and other wildlife depending on it. Moreover, such acid rains having PH levels of 5 can deteriorate respiratory diseases. Acid rains can be caused due to volcanic eruptions and industrial pollutants.

 

How does rainfall decrease air pollution?

Rains can sometimes turn into relief in pollution-intense regions. Rainfall can decrease the pollution levels of the area and make the air breathable. The rainwater coming from the skies can wash off the air pollutants such as particulate matter and ozone from haze and smog and pollens from the plants. Thus, this improves the air quality a lot. Accordingly, rains act as a natural eliminator of the ecosystem. Extremely heavy rain can reduce up to 30% of the airborne pollutants. However, as explained earlier, the washed-off airborne pollutants will settle on the soil, making it contaminated. Such soil quality then affects the productivity of the crops.

So what does the blog mean in short?

Thus, the blog primarily firstly concluded that air pollution could alter the intensity of the rainfall. The toxic pollutants mix with the aerosol composition and react with the water droplets to form rainwater droplets and clouds. Then, it also stated that the excess, active presence of such blended aerosols in the atmosphere might result in long-lasting clouds which might never deliver the expected rainfall; they can move away from the region and disappear into nowhere. Such conditions can lead to droughts and lead to crop and economic losses. Thirdly, the amalgamation of toxic elements released from volcanic eruptions and factories can lead to the formation of acid rains which can deteriorate the soil quality. Such phenomena can create havoc in day-to-day lives. In the end, the blog specifically mentioned that rainfall also helps significantly to wash off pollutants.

Now, in the next section, I will provide you with detailed solutions to minimize 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 the air get polluted?

How Does Pollution affect the Earth?

How does sunlight affect air quality?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “How does pollution affect the rain?” Firstly, we understood the basic information about air pollution. Then, we also learned some basic facts about rain. After that, the article mainly focused on the effect of air pollution on rainfall. In the end, the post provided practical solutions to minimize air pollution.

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

How does pollution affect rain and water?

Air pollutants cause rainwater to be acidic. These contaminants can develop into toxic gases and combine heavy metals like Pb into rainwater.

Does pollution increase rain?

Environmental scientists around the globe have concluded that air pollution can decrease or increase rainfall; it depends on the local ecological conditions. Due to rising pollution levels, the intensity of rains rises at first, reaches a maximum peak, and finally falls off sharply at very high aerosol concentrations.

 

How does pollution affect the weather?

Air pollution affects the weather tremendously. The gaseous emissions are believed to have involved rainfall since the 1920s. Air contaminants can seed raindrop formation and change the rain cloud formation and rainfall pattern. In the United States, there are many cases of delaying rainfall that has caused ferocious summer storms.

What happens to rain when the air contains pollutants?

Rainfall can benefit you; the rain can wash off common air pollutants such as pollens and allergens. This phenomenon is called Wet deposition.

What pollutants are in the rainwater?

The pollutants present in the rainwater are as follows:

  • Dust
  • Particles
  • Smoke
  • SOx
  • NOx

What are the effects of air pollution?

The effects of air pollution are as follows:

  • Damage to human health
  • Economic losses
  • Degradation of biodiversity and wildlife
  • Depletion of natural resources
  • Fluctuating weather conditions
  • Greenhouse effects
  • Global warming

References

Aerosol pollution may affect rainfall patterns. Down To Earth. Available at: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/aerosol-pollution-may-affect-rainfall-pattern-5567  

Air pollution can prevent rainfall. ScienceDaily. Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000314065455.htm

Air pollution ’causes more rain – but also less rain’. edie.net. Available at: https://www.edie.net/news/2/Air-pollution-causes-more-rain—but-also-less-rain/15279/  

What is acid rain, and how is it formed? Sustainability for all. Available at: https://www.activesustainability.com/climate-change/what-is-acid-rain/?_adin=02021864894  

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