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Less pollution may lead to more hurricanes: study


Satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show Hurricane Katia in the Atlantic Ocean on September 1, 2011.



New research from scientists at Britain's Meteorological Office suggests that a drop in pollution is behind the uptick in hurricanes in the North Atlantic.

The scientists used climate simulations to match storm records and predictions from 1860 to 2050 with recorded and predicted levels of atmospheric pollution. In general, tropical storms seemed to occur less frequently during periods when there was a greater amount of sulfate aerosols spewed out by factory chimneys, vehicle exhausts and domestic fires – aka smog – in the air.

Clean-air legislation reduced pollution at the end of the 20th century.

“Our results show changes in pollution may have had a much larger role than previously thought” in suppressing hurricanes, lead author Nick J. Dunstone, a researcher with Britain’s meteorological service, said.

In the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the scientists said pollution particles may have affected clouds in ways that cooled the oceans, possibly resulting in fewer tropical storms, particularly major hurricanes.

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