Volume 11, Issue 1 - January/February 2017
Air Pollution Could Worsen Water Shortages in a Changing Climate
Over the past 40 years since the passage of the Clean Air Act, air pollution from automobiles, factories, and power plants has substantially decreased, leading to better human and environmental health. But air pollution and its impacts on people and ecosystems remain a concern amid growing demands for transportation, energy, and manufactured goods. University and U.S. Forest Service researchers believe air pollution could also be a hidden driver of important changes in the nation’s watersheds following a recent study published in the January issue of the journal Climatic Change. Kai Duan, a North Carolina State University postdoctoral researcher working with the Eastern Threat Center and the study’s lead author, worked with a team of researchers to combine a series of models, including a global climate model, a regional climate model, and the Water Supply Stress Index (WaSSI) model. The scientists ran the models with and without accounting for the impacts of air pollution on climate in order to assess the individual and combined impacts of climate change and air pollution on water availability and ecosystem productivity. Study results indicate that, while aerosols in air pollution could partially offset higher temperatures, greenhouse gases will continue to drive higher temperatures and associated increases in ecosystem water use. Read more in CompassLive...
Pictured: Reds, oranges, and yellows show potential decreases in water supplies by the middle of the 21st century based on stable (a. and b.) and rising (c. and d.) atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Maps b. and d. take air pollution into account; maps a. and c. do not. Click to enlarge.