How different weather conditions affect air pollution
The weather has a considerable impact on air quality and can significantly affect the amount of pollution in the air. This is due to different aspects of the weather affecting the amounts of ozone and particulates that are present in a specific area. The biggest problems are caused by sunshine, high temperatures, high pressure, and wind.
Why is the theme ‘Only One Earth’ particularly relevant to the world we live in today?
Sunshine can cause some pollutants to undergo chemical reactions resulting in smog. Photochemical smog as it’s known negatively affects the environment, people’s health, and even various materials. Unlike some forms of air pollution, it’s possible to see this brown haze hanging in the air above many cities. When inhaled, smog irritates our airways and increases the risk of serious heart and lung diseases. Long-term exposure can also damage other organs like the brain, kidneys and liver.
Heatwaves: a major health hazard
Higher temperatures, heatwaves especially, can speed up chemical reactions and lead to poor air quality. The extreme heat and stagnant air increase the amount of ozone and particulate pollution. High temperatures and respiratory problems are linked, partly because the heat contributes to the build-up of harmful air pollutants. Heatwaves also increase the likelihood of wildfires, which can release massive amounts of pollution into the atmosphere. Read more about the health hazards of smoke and wildfires.
Wind: public transport for pollutants
Wind is one of the biggest influences on air pollution. Pollutants tend to pile up in calm conditions where there is little or no wind, especially near their source, such as in towns or industrial sites. When wind speeds pick up, the contaminants are dispersed more widely and can even spread from one continent to another.
High pressure collects pollutants
Air tends to be more still in areas with high pressure, allowing greater concentrations of air pollutants to build up. This is more likely in the winter when air can stagnate, causing poor air to increase and linger longer than it would in the warmer seasons. Winter is also when we are most likely to use our cars and consequently release more emissions by burning fossil fuels.
Rain: a surprising savior
Rain reduces air pollution and enhances the air quality of a place. Each raindrop can attract tens to hundreds of tiny aerosol particles to its surface before hitting the ground. This process is known as coagulation and is a natural process that can clear the air of the most common atmospheric pollutants, including soot and smog.