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7 Nissan 5760 - April 12, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Satellite Data Confirm Link Between Air Pollution and Rainfall

by N. Katzin

A clear correlation between air pollution and drought has recently been discovered at the Institute for Global Science of the Hebrew University. In a study by meteorologist Professor Daniel Rosenfeld on the basis of satellite data, it was proven that minuscule particles of smoke and dust formed by air pollution result in the formation of small droplets in the clouds. This factor diminishes the chances of natural rainfall. The study has brought progress in the understanding of climatic phenomenon such as global warming, drought and flooding and their correlation to air pollution.

The influence of air pollution on the decrease of precipitation has been suspected for years, but until now it could not be proven. Polluted air is carried by wind and transferred to distant countries. The adverse affect of the pollutants on rainfall is cumulative, gaining strength only at great distances. Contradicting theories -- such as one stating that air pollution increases rainfall in industrial areas -- had also been suggested.

Professor Rosenfeld analyzed statistics culled by a NASA satellite for the measuring of rainfall (known as a TRMM) and found evidence of the correlation between air pollution and a reduction of precipitation.

When droplets of water in the clouds are too small, they do not combine to form raindrops and the cloud doesn't give off rain. Polluted air is composed of smoke and tiny dust particles, the result of industrial pollution and fires. These particles penetrate the cloud and prevent the formation of relatively large raindrops in the cloud. The polluted particles also slow down the formation of ice and snow.

Professor Rosenfeld noted that polluted air reaching Israel from distant places such as East Europe adversely affects the formation of rain in the area. The extent of the influence of air pollution in Israel on drought will be examined in further studies.

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