Azara Blog: European clean air has increased European temperatures

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Date published: 2009/01/20

The BBC says:

Quite what Keats would have made of it is anyone's guess, but "mist and mellow fruitfulness" appears to be on the decline in Europe.

The number of foggy, misty and hazy days is diminishing across the continent, say scientists who have analysed the meteorological data.

The researchers found this clearing of the air in the past 30 years may have amplified the warming of Europe.
Since the 1970s, European temperatures have risen by about half-a-degree Celsius per decade.

This warming rate is faster than the global mean change (roughly equal to 0.18C per decade) and the trend averaged over all the Earth's land (roughly equal to 0.27C per decade) during the same period.

The regional climate models used by scientists have failed to simulate the European experience, say Vautard and colleagues; and they point to legislation that has cleaned up Europe's air as the probable cause.

This has limited the presence of the tiny particles, or aerosols, in the atmosphere which help trigger the low-visibility phenomena.

With fewer fogs, mists and haze, more of the Sun's energy has been reaching the surface, leading to a rise a rise in temperatures, they tell Nature Geoscience.

The team's analysis suggests the clearer air's contribution to the background warming trend may have been about 10-20% across Europe as a whole; and in Eastern Europe specifically, it may have been as much as 50%.

This is not a new idea, but the quantification is worthwhile. An interesting related question is that although the air in Europe (and America) might be cleaner, has the pollution just been exported to other countries (e.g. China), who now make a lot of goods for the rich (or once rich) West?

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