Not all Chinese exports come in ships: Ozone pollution pushed by wind gets to Western U.S.

Beijing smog
CC BY 2.0 Kevin Spooley

The U.S. and China has a very important commercial relationship, with countless cargo ships going back and forth between the shores of both countries. But not all exports need ships to cross the Pacific ocean. Chinese ozone pollution has been shown to reach the Western U.S. in a new study published in Nature Geoscience. For the first time, scientists have used a combination of satellite observations and computer models of how air-borne molecules travel in the lower atmosphere to figure out how much Chinese air pollution finds its way to the West coast.

It turns out that while the U.S. has been good about slashing local ozone pollution, enough of it comes from over the sea to keep overall levels fairly constant. But those of you who would point the finger at China should remember that most of those polluting factories are running to make inexpensive goods for Americans and Europeans, so things are a little more complex than they might first appear. China definitely needs to clean up its act, like the U.S. and Europe started to do a few decades ago, and there are already some signs that it is making a real effort to do so.

The smog in China makes one thing clear: improvements are necessary© C. Lepisto

"The dominant westerly winds blew this air pollution straight across to the United States," explained lead research Willem Verstraeten of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

"In a manner of speaking, China is exporting its air pollution to the West Coast of America," he said in a statement.
Nitrous Oxide emissions from vehicle traffic and industry, mixed with sunlight, create dirty-yellow blankets of ozone smog that sting the eye and scatch the throat.

Close to the ground, this pollution causes respiratory problems, damages crops, and is an important source of greenhouse gases. (source)

China itself is facing a similar problem, being downwind from India and other Asian countries that don't always have very strict air quality regulations.

Bottom line is, no country operates in a vacuum. The Earth our collective home and what happens in one corner affects the rests of it. When we understand that, we can move forward to a healthier, better world.

China coal pollution mapGP/Screen capture

Via Global Post

Tags: Air Pollution | Air Quality | California | China

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