Climate: Study says pollution makes thunderstorms bigger and stronger — and they’re trapping more atmospheric heat

Summit County Citizens Voice

Researchers surprised by strong warming effect of big thunderclouds

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Taking a close-up look at thunderclouds enabled researchers to identify a new factor in the global warming equation — high altitude air pollution that spreads out the top of anvil-headed thunder clouds and traps more heat, especially at night.

How much the warming effect of these clouds offsets the cooling that other clouds provide is not yet clear. To find out, researchers need to incorporate this new-found warming into global climate models.

“Global climate models don’t see this effect because thunderstorm clouds simulated in those models do not include enough detail,” said  Jiwn Fan, a climate researcher with the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “The large amount of heat trapped by the pollution-enhanced clouds could potentially impact regional circulation and modify weather systems,” he said.

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