ScienceDaily (Dec. 17, 2009) — New climate research reveals how wind shear -- the same atmospheric conditions that cause bumpy airplane rides -- affects how pollution contributes to isolated thunderstorm clouds. Under strong wind shear conditions, pollution hampers thunderhead formation. But with weak wind shear, pollution does the opposite and makes storms stronger.
The work improves climate scientists' understanding of how aerosols -- tiny unseen particles that make up pollution -- contribute to isolated thunderstorms and the climate cycle. How aerosols and clouds interact is one of the least understood aspects of climate, and this work allows researchers to better model clouds and precipitation.
"This finding may provide some guidelines on how man-made aerosols affect the local climate and precipitation, especially for the places where 'afternoon showers' happen frequently and affect the weather system and hydrological cycle," said atmospheric scientist Jiwen Fan of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Aerosols in the air change the cloud properties, but the changes vary from case to case. With detailed cloud modeling, we found an important factor regulating how aerosols change storms and precipitation."
The rest of this fascinating article is here.