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Title: Substantial Contribution of Anthropogenic Air Pollution to Catastrophic Floods in Southwest China

Extreme events such as heat waves, floods, and droughts, have become more frequent since the 1950s1-2. This is likely caused through changes in greenhouse gases and aerosols that perturb the radiative balance and alter cloud processes3-8. On 8-9 July, 2013 a catastrophic flood devastated several metropolitan areas at the foothills of the Sichuan Basin. Using a high-resolution coupled atmosphere-chemistry model, we show that this disaster was not entirely natural. Ensemble simulations robustly show that the severe anthropogenic pollution in the Sichuan Basin significantly enhanced rainfall intensity over the mountainous area northwest of the basin. The heavy air pollution (mainly black carbon) absorbs solar radiation in the lower atmosphere at the expense of surface cooling, which stabilizes the atmosphere and suppresses convection and precipitation over the basin. The enhanced moisture and moist static energy over the basin are then transported by the prevailing winds towards the mountains during daytime. As the excessive moist air that reaches the foothills at night is orographically lifted, very strong convection develops and produces extremely heavy precipitation. Reducing black carbon (BC) emissions in the basin can effectively mitigate the extreme precipitation in the mountains. Unfortunately, BC emissions have been increasing in many developing countries including China9,more » making them more vulnerable to enhanced disasters as reported here.« less
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Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
3562; 25701; 35201; 47903; KP1703010
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Geophysical Research Letters, 42(14):6066-6075
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US), Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory