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Midweek increase in U.S. summer rain and storm heights suggests air pollution invigorates rainstorms

Midweek increase in U.S. summer rain and storm heights suggests air pollution invigorates rainstorms
Bell T.L.Rosenfeld D.Kim K.-M.Yoo J.-M.Lee M.-I.Hahnenberger M.
Ewha Authors
Issue Date
Journal Title
Journal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres
0148-0227JCR Link
vol. 113, no. 2
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite estimates of summertime rainfall over the southeast U.S. are found on average to be significantly higher during the middle of the work week than on weekends, attributable to a midweek intensification of afternoon storms and an increase in area with detectable rain. TRMM radar data show a significant midweek increase in the echo-top heights reached by afternoon storms. Weekly variations in model-reanalysis wind patterns over the region are consistent with changes in convection implied by the satellite data. Weekly variations in rain gauge averages are also consistent with the satellite estimates, though possibly smaller in amplitude. A midweek decrease of rainfall over the nearby Atlantic is also seen. EPA measurements of surface particulate concentrations show a midweek peak over much of the U.S. These observations are consistent with the theory that anthropogenic air pollution suppresses cloud-drop coalescence and early rainout during the growth of thunderstorms over land, allowing more water to be carried above the 0°C isotherm, where freezing yields additional latent heat, invigorating the storms and producing large ice hydrometeors. The enhanced convection induces regional convergence, uplifting and an overall increase of rainfall. Compensating downward air motion suppresses convection over the adjacent ocean areas. Pre-TRMM-era data suggest that the weekly cycle only became strong enough to be detectable beginning in the 1980's. Rain-gauge data also suggest that a weekly cycle may have been detectable in the 1940's, but with peak rainfall on Sunday or Monday, possibly explained by the difference in composition of aerosol pollution at that time. This "weekend effect" may thus offer climate researchers an opportunity to study the regional climate-scale impact of aerosols on storm development and monsoon-like circulation. Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.
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