Scientists say microplastics inside clouds may change global weather

Scientists say microplastics inside clouds may change global weather

Another dire consequence of plastic pollution.

Plastic liner

Microplastics seem inescapable, polluting everything from the remotest parts of the planet to the bloodstreams of living organisms, including ourselves.

This already comes with some alarming environmental and health concerns that scientists continue to explore, but new research suggests that the spread of these particles could have even more serious consequences: completely changing the weather.

Following up on recent research that discovered microplastics in clouds, a new study was published in the journal Environmental science and technology letters It found that particles can also affect cloud formation, with potential consequences for our climate.

“Cloud formation has a significant impact not only on our local weather patterns, but also on global temperatures,” said Faye Kusserow, a professor of environmental pollution at the University of Portsmouth who was not involved in the study. Watchman.

Atlantic clouds

As regulators of the solar radiation hitting our planet, clouds cool and warm (but are mostly cold) the climate. Above all, they bring rain, snow and other forms of precipitation, so they play an essential role in the local environment everywhere.

Clouds form when water vapor turns into water droplets. But for droplets to form in the first place, the vapor must attach to small particles, such as dust.

As solid particles, microplastics likely give water vapor another surface on which to form droplets, although to what extent remains unknown.

An airy future

Researchers collected more than two dozen cloud samples from a mountaintop in eastern China. Their analysis found that many microplastics became aged due to conditions in the cloud, creating rough surfaces and allowing other materials such as lead, mercury and oxygen to attach to them.

The types of microplastics found included polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyethylene (PE), which are commonly used in food packaging and water bottles. Most particles were no more than 0.1 mm long.

Using a computer model they developed, the researchers also reconstructed the journey of microplastic particles, finding that they were lifted from the ground via airflow from cities, rather than from the ocean or mountains.

Currently, microplastics appear to appear more in low-altitude clouds, which are denser than high-altitude clouds such as clouds. Beyond that, the researchers concluded that more studies will be needed to understand how this affects the weather, but it is certainly ominous.

More about climate: Your evil car is filling the ocean with microplastics, scientists say

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