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Air Pollution can impact visibility in remote areas as well as in cities.
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Source: T. Eastburn

Air Pollution and Atmospheric Visibility

Would you be surprised if smoke from a fire stopped you from seeing nearby buildings or mountains? Probably not. What if there was no fire, and a brown or gray haze filled the sky. Would you be surprised not to be able to see nearby buildings or mountains then?

Smog is the term that is used for such haze in the sky. Sometimes, the sky is so smoggy that visibility is limited. It happens most often in large cities with many people, but smog can also travel to other areas with the help of the wind.

When smog is in the sky, sunlight can have trouble shinning through it. As a result, the climate of the area can be changed by smog. A reduction in sunlight may not be the only thing air pollution reduces. Scientists are researching the possibility that it may also inhibit rainfall.

More clouds usually mean more rain, but not always, especially with certain specks of air pollution. Resent research findings report that particles of soot are often too small to produce raindrops large enough to hit the ground. This is unfortunate, because rain is one way to wash dust, soot, and chemicals from polluted air and allow mountains and buildings near and afar to be seen.

For now, however, more research needs to be done. Scientific field campaigns such as MILAGRO are how scientists gather information about air pollution and its harmful effects on visibility, rain, climate, and so much more. So if rain isn't in the forecast on a smoggy day, it may be best to hope that the wind blows in and the smog blows out.

Last modified February 19, 2006 by Teri Eastburn.

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