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China Earth Science

Catastrophic Chinese Floods Triggered By Air Pollution 59

sciencehabit writes: The worst flooding to hit China in 50 years may have been caused by air pollution, according to a new study. Soot in particular contributed to the catastrophic flooding. It prevented rainclouds from forming over the Sichuan basin, which is surrounded by mountains that trap smoke billowing from its industrial centers, and is 'notorious' for its dirty air. That in turn lead to more intense rainfall in the mountains that evening, which eventually led to the massive flooding.
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Catastrophic Chinese Floods Triggered By Air Pollution

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  • FTFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sir_Eptishous ( 873977 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @02:58PM (#50071297) Homepage

    Fan and her co-authors ran two forecasts for the weather system that passed over the Sichuan basin during the peak of the floods: one with the thick blanket of smoke that covered the region and one with the kind of clean air that existed 40 years ago, before the Chinese economic boom. In the clean air model, moist air at Earth’s surface was heated by the daytime sun, became buoyant, and rose to great heights, triggering a convective cycle that led to storm clouds and mild daytime rainfall. But in the dirty air model, the dark veil over the plain soaked up much of the sun’s warmth high in the atmosphere, while simultaneously cooling the streets and fields below. This altered thermal structure stabilized the daytime atmosphere and suppressed rainfall. But as night fell, the moist air mass moved northward toward the Longmen Mountains, which tower some 2000 meters above the basin. The weather system that had been building energy over the plains for 12 hours was driven upward as it collided with the range’s steep contours, triggering the postponed convection. A day’s worth of rainfall from the plains was focused into a few hours over a handful of mountain valleys.

  • Catastrophic Chinese FOODS triggered by air pollution.

    I could believe that.

  • I am pretty sure the actual cause of the floods... was water.

    Also, if they'd just let it float across the Pacific to California, like it used to, it'd solve a lot of problems for everyone.

  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @04:07PM (#50071743) Homepage
    I grew up in Los Angles, and the first thing I thought of when I RTFM was that it sounded like an inversion layer. Checking with Wikipedia, I found that it's probably caused by Capping inversion. [] In fact, I'm almost a tad astonished that none of the climate scientists involved in the study recognized it, although it's possible that none of them came from an area that's subject to such things and had no first-hand experience with the phenomenon.
    • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @04:43PM (#50071975)
      From the Wikipedia article:

      If the capping inversion layer or "cap" is too strong (too close to the surface), it will prevent thunderstorms from developing.

      Perhaps the soot is increasing the effect of the capping inversion? But I'm sure it's just more scientists so colossally ignorant that they failed to check Slashdot first.

      • My guess is that whoever wrote the article either didn't know the right terminology or didn't think that the audience would. Or, of course, the scientists could have "dumbed down" their explanation so that the journalist could understand it.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Sadly this phenomenon isn't limited to just Slashdot. Most forums seem to be the same. I bet it goes back to the dawn of time too. There was probably some caveman rubbing two sticks together, and another couple watching from their armchairs and commenting that the fiction would never be enough to enable combustion.

    • Re:Inversion layer (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tobiasly ( 524456 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @05:27PM (#50072173) Homepage

      I grew up in Los Angles, and the first thing I thought of when I RTFM

      Wait a minute, the give you a manual on how to live in Los Angeles? That actually makes a lot of sense.

      • Nice comment, and it just might help newcomers if there were such a manual. Alas, I meant to type RTFA, and used the wrong finger-macro.
  • I read the Headline as "Catastrophic Chinese FOODS Triggered By Air Pollution"

    I thought "Yeah, I didn't feel too well after eating at the Chinese Buffet the other day; but WTF?!?"
  • The number one cause (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dasher42 ( 514179 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @07:36PM (#50072771)

    The number one cause of flooding in China is, and has been for a long time, that the ability of the watershed to retain water and let it move through slowly has been degraded by some of the longest-term use of the plow on the face of the planet. The Loess Plateau, the original homeland of the Han people, shows some of the most horrific erosion ever. It's been reduced to near-desert conditions, and rainwater washes off from it unabsorbed, carrying silt, right into the river that's called Yellow because of just that.

    Air pollution just adds to this. []

    • "the ability of the watershed to retain water and let it move through slowly. [The land] has been degraded by "

      Darn touchpads.

  • Did anyone else read "Catastrophic Chinese Food..."?
    • by KGIII ( 973947 )


      Your rush to seem witty resulted in your failure to read the thread. You are the sixth person to state this.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson