This is a photograph of pollution over Beijing, China.
Click on image for full size
NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team
Aerosols and Climate Change
There are little particles in the atmosphere that are so small and light they can float in air. These particles are called aerosols. They may be small but they have the ability to change climate.
Some of them are natural. They come from erupting volcanoes, sea salt, and wildfires. Other aerosols are let loose in the air when fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas are burned for energy. They are a part of air pollution, which is bad for people's health. They also lower the amount of global warming.
Aerosols in the atmosphere can change the amount of sunlight that is reflected away from Earth. Light colored particles reflect sunlight back out into space. Dark particles absorb most of the sunlight that hits them.
Aerosols help clouds form. The millions of little droplets of water that make up a cloud each need a little particle, like an aerosol, to condense upon. Clouds have an impact on climate. In general, clouds reflect incoming solar radiation back out to space.
Scientists think that over most of the last century overall effect of the added aerosols was a reduced amount of global warming. Now that we are making our air cleaner so that it is healthier for people to breath, the pace of warming will likely increase.
You might also be interested in:
When you look up at the sky, you are looking at more than just air. There are also billions of tiny bits of solid and liquid floating in the air. These tiny particles are called aerosols or particulates....more
Have you ever had a fire in your fireplace? Burning logs leaves a black powdery material behind called soot. Soot is also made when we burn coal, gas or oil for energy. Humans have been burning these...more
Have you ever heard of air pollution? Air pollution is not new. 700 years ago, when people started burning large amounts of coal 700 years ago in London, England, they complained about the dust and soot...more
Have you ever taken your temperature to see if you are getting sick? Scientists have been taking the Earth's temperature and have found that it is getting warmer. During the past 100 years, the Earth's...more
This picture was taken from high above our planet. Looking at the Earth from very far away like this we can see that some parts of our planet look light in color, and some parts look dark. The color of...more
A cloud is composed of tiny water droplets or ice crystals. A series of things have to happen in order for these water droplets or ice crystals to form into clouds in the atmosphere, and different types...more
Scientists have been studying tiny particles in the air called aerosols. Aerosols can affect our climate, the amount of clouds in the sky, and the amount of rain that falls from clouds. Aerosols can also...more