Study: Summer Thunderclouds Warm the Atmosphere

May 28, 2012

Researchers in the Northwest have found some pollution is making thunderstorms stronger and the atmosphere warmer.

Those giant, anvil-shaped thunderclouds you see looming in the distance may actually be getting bigger and stronger this summer, all because of aerosol pollutants.

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, have discovered these really big clouds trap more heat high in the atmosphere. Scientist Jiwen Fan says summertime thunderstorms may actually contribute to a warming climate. That’s especially true in places where it rains a lot, like the southeastern United States.

Scientists previously thought aerosols cooled the atmosphere. But Fan says that research left out important interactions between pollutants and thunderclouds. She says this new research could change climate science.