Dirty dust from China – It’s that time of year again (and no, we don’t mean Easter!): The economic growth across much of Asia comes with a troubling side effect: pollutants from the region are being wafted up to the stratosphere during monsoon season, and they’re blowing OUR way. Not only that, that can circulate around the globe for years!

The impact of Asian pollutants on the stratosphere may increase in coming decades because of the growing industrial activity in China and other rapidly developing nations. Researcher William Randel says that more research is needed into the possible effects of these pollutants: For instance, when sulfur rises into the stratosphere, it can lead to the creation of small particles called aerosols that are known to influence the ozone layer. The monsoon transport may also have effects on other gases in the stratosphere, such as water vapor, that affect global climate by influencing the amount of solar heat that reaches Earth. Such climate change could alter the Asian monsoon itself, although no one knows whether it would strengthen or weaken vertical movements of air that transport pollutants into the stratosphere.

Radnel says, “This is a vivid example of pollutants altering our atmosphere in subtle and far-reaching ways.”

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