Tuesday, May 17, 2016

By 2020 Asian pollution will be the primary factor degrading visibility in US national parks, per Harvard's Daniel Jacob. Foreign pollution nullifies US air quality improvements which have cost billions of dollars-USA Today, 3/13/2005

2005 article:

3/13/2005, "Air pollution from other countries drifts into USA," USA Today, Traci Watson

"By the year 2020, Harvard University's Daniel Jacob says, imported pollution will be the primary factor degrading visibility in our national parks. [Daniel Jacob is a professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at Harvard].

While the United States is cutting its own emissions, some nations, especially China, are belching out more and more dirty air. As a result, overseas pollution could partly cancel out improvements in air quality that have cost billions of dollars.

Among the efforts that could be undermined: the Environmental Protection Agency's new drive to cut power plants' emissions of ozone-forming chemicals and particle pollution, specks of chemicals that damage health. The EPA finalized the rule Thursday (March 2005). 

The EPA will announce limits Tuesday on mercury emitted by U.S. power plants. But the agency estimates that 40% of the mercury that sinks out of the air and lands in the USA comes from overseas.

"A number of things are getting here that we're worried about," says David Streets, an environmental scientist at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago. "Some of these (pollutants) are not easy to control....I don't expect things to get better in the next 10 years or so, and some things will get worse."

Almost every place in the USA has suffered from the effects of imported air pollution, at least occasionally. Some of the most serious impacts:

Mercury emitted by power plants and factories in China, Korea and other parts of Asia wafts over to the USA and settles into the nation's lakes and streams, where it contributes to pollution that makes fish unsafe to eat.

Dust from Africa's Sahara Desert blows west across the Atlantic Ocean and helps raise particle levels above federal health standards in Miami and other Southern cities.

NASA dust map, 2001


Scientists who study air quality have long known that air pollution seeps into the USA from abroad. But only recently have they realized that the problem has an enormous reach an idea that at first met with resistance.

"A lot of scientists were skeptical," says Daniel Jaffe of the University of Washington at Bothell, recalling the reaction to his early findings. "There was a lot of, 'Oh, come on now.'"

But aerial and ground-based sensors that detected the chemical fingerprints of pollutants floating across oceans helped erase doubts. So did new satellites that in the last 10 years gave scientists a bird's-eye view of clouds of pollution drifting from continent to continent

From Africa to Alabama 

When dust from the Gobi Desert in China and Mongolia headed for North America in 1998, "you could actually see it like yellow ink snaking across the Pacific," says Rudolf Husar, who studies atmospheric chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis. 

The dust cloud was so thick that when it reached the USA, officials in Washington and Oregon issued warnings about unhealthful air quality, Husar says. Other Asian dust storms have polluted the skies in Savannah, Ga., and Maine.

African dust doesn't migrate as far into the USA as its Asian cousin. But it can get to places such as northern Alabama and southern Tennessee, which suffer from significant homegrown emissions. The combination of local and imported pollution causes particle levels to soar above federal health limits, Husar says....
Asian pollution, scientists say, has the potential to help negate the United States' work to clean up its air....

Jacob also worries about foreign pollution's effect on views in U.S. national parks. U.S. law requires the restoration of natural visibility in places such as Arizona's Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. But haze caused by Asian dust storms sometimes obscures the landscape in the parks. The haze could make it difficult, if not impossible to reach visibility goals and also is bad for people's health. 

Even today, "if you go to the Western national parks during the springtime, you're very likely to have your visibility decreased by Asian dust," Jacob says. "In a big (dust) storm, you don't see anything."...

Pollution wafting into the USA accounts for 30% of the nation's ozone, an important component of smog, says researcher David Parrish of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration....
Mercury from China, dust from Africa, smog from Mexico — all of it drifts freely across U.S. borders and contaminates the air millions of Americans breathe, according to recent research from Harvard University, the University of Washington and many other institutions where scientists are studying air pollution. There are no boundaries in the sky to stop such pollution, no Border Patrol agents to capture it."...

Above map, NASA, 6/2001, scroll down: "This TOMS [Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer] image shows a record-setting Asian dust cloud beginning its journey east across the Pacific. Click on the image to view a 440 kb animation of the dust cloud migrating to North America. Remember that as the dust disappears from the satellite's view, it's raining out of the air onto the ocean and the land. See a similar Asian dust cloud from 1998 in this animation," science.nasa.gov

Additional citation that Asian control of US atmosphere is common knowledge:

""The ozone on the West Coast in a few years will be controlled not by California and Oregon," Schnell (NOAA) says. "It will be controlled by China."" Nov. 2006  

"During these surges, the air entering the West Coast can have pollution concentrations as high as 75 percent of federal air quality standards, Jaffe said." 5/17/2001, NASA


May 2001 article

5/17/2001, "The Pacific Dust Express," science.nasa.gov


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