The study, originally published in the August 3, 2012 issue of Science, provides the first satellite measurement-based estimate of the amount of airborne particles that come to America from overseas, according to the article.
Most of the pollution traveling into the U.S., according to the study entitled ‘Aerosols from Overseas Rival Domestic Emissions over North America’, is not industrial emissions, but dust from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Out of the total annual accumulation of foreign aerosols, 87.5 percent is dust from across the Pacific, 6.25 percent is comprised of combustion aerosols from the same region and 6.25 percent is Saharan dust from across the Atlantic.
“People have been concerned about how an emerging Asian economy and increased manmade pollution will influence North American air quality and climate, but we found that dust makes large contributions here,” Yu told ScienceBlog. “So we cannot just focus on pollution. We need to consider dust.”
ESSIC Director and Professor Dr. Antonio Busalacchi told ScienceBlog one of the most interesting points made in the study is that even a reduction of industrial emissions by the emerging economies of Asia could be overwhelmed by an increase in dust emissions due to changes in meteorological conditions and potential desertification.
“Over the course of time, climate, human influence on the environment, and dust emissions have been inextricably linked,” Busalacchi said, who was not involved in the study. “One [needs to] only look at the Dust Bowl of the 1930′s to see this. With ever expanding drought conditions due to climate change, we can expect trans-boundary transport of dust aerosols to increase in the future”
NASA Physical Scientist Dr. Mian Chin, UMBC/JCET Research Scientists Dr. Lorraine Remer, Dr. Huisheng Bian, and Dr. Tianle Yuan and GESTAR/USRA Research Scientists Dr. Qian Tan and Yan Zhang also contributed to the study.
Find an article on the study from the ESSIC website here.