Reducing the cooling effect of aerosols may lead to global warming

Guided global research group University of Leipzig Satellite data has been used to show that the accumulation of particulate matter has decreased dramatically since the year 2000.

Image Credit: Multimedia snc

This is necessary due to the impact on health, however, it also reduced the climate cooling effect of the particles. The results of this study were reported in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Global warming is the result of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the temperature rose by 1.1°C by 2019 compared to pre-industrial measurements.

At the same time, burning fossil fuels releases aerosols in the form of polluting particles such as sulfuric acid or soot, which cools the climate. These aerosols reflect sunlight and also enhance the reflection of clouds.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, aerosols in the air made the climate 0.5°C cooler in 2019 than elsewhere. Other influences such as change in land use also have a role to play.

The study documents extensive evidence of the impact of reduced cooling of the climate

In a recent international investigation, Professor Johannes Coase, a meteorologist at the University of Leipzig, and his contemporaries from across China, Europe and the United States recorded strong evidence of this climate effect on improved air quality.

We analyzed data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. They have been providing comprehensive satellite observations of the Earth since 2000, measuring incoming and outgoing radiation, but also clouds and aerosol pollution. The latter has declined significantly across North America, Europe, and East Asia since 2000.

Johannes Coase, lead author of the study, Professor and Meteorologist, University of Leipzig

This study began at a meeting between the two European research projects Constraints and Forces.

Reduced cooling from aerosols leads to increased warming due to carbon dioxide2 Since 2000 up to 50%

This also reduced the cooling effect of the aerosols. In contrast to 2000, this has increased the warming effect by 50% of that increased by carbon dioxide2 in the same time frame. This leads to acceleration of global warming.

Our study should not be interpreted to mean that we must now release more aerosols to cool the climate. On the contrary, aerosols are harmful to human health and the environment, which is why we need to continue to reduce emissions.

Johannes Coase, lead author of the study, Professor and Meteorologist, University of Leipzig

This is why air quality laws are becoming more and more stringent since the 1970s and are gradually being implemented in more countries. In the new study, Professor Coase and his contemporaries stress the urgent need than ever to make rapid and lasting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

magazine reference

Quaas, J., and others. (2022) Strong evidence for a reversal in the direction of the effective climate forcing of aerosols. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.