Pollution affects the ocean in many different ways. One of these is that it causes hurricanes. A recent increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea may be a side effect of increasing air pollution over the Indian sub-continent.

Traditionally, prevailing wind-shear patterns prevent cyclones in the Arabian Sea from becoming major storms, but the weakening of the winds has enabled the formation of stronger cyclones in recent years–including storms in 2007 and 2010 that were the first recorded storms ever to enter the Gulf of Oman.

Until recent decades, cyclones in the Arabian Sea tended to be relatively weak storms. This was attributed to a naturally occurring vertical wind shear over the sea, which tended to weaken and ultimately break up developing storms. But wind circulation patterns over the Arabian Sea are changing, reducing vertical wind shear and allowing stronger storm development.

Environmental scientist Amato Evan says, "There has been a real uptick in the intensity of tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea. We wanted to understand why, and we think we found the reason. We are showing that pollution from human activity–as simple as burning wood or driving a vehicle with a diesel engine–can actually change these massive atmospheric phenomena in a significant way. It underscores the importance of getting a handle on emissions in the region."

Unless air pollution emitted from the Indian subcontinent is reduced, it is possible that strong cyclones in the Arabian Sea may become more commonplace. This has the potential to cause additional billions of dollars in damage, more loss of life and disruptions to shipping traffic in the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. What does that mean for us? HIGHER OIL PRICES in the future!

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