Monday, 10 January 2005
Effect of air pollution on precipitation along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains
Air pollution generated in industrial and urban areas can act to suppress precipitation by creating a narrow cloud droplet spectrum, which inhibits the collision and coalescence process. In fact, precipitation ratios of elevated sites to upwind coastal urban areas have been observed to decrease during the 20th century for locations in California and Israel while pollution emissions have increased. Precipitation suppression by pollution should also be evident in other areas of the world where shallow, orographic clouds produce precipitation. This study investigates the precipitation trends for sites along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains to determine the effect of air pollution on precipitation in this region. The examination of precipitation trends reveals that the ratio of upslope precipitation for an elevated site west of Denver to an urban site has decreased by 30% over the past half-century. Similar precipitation trends were not found for more pristine sites in the region, providing evidence of precipitation suppression by air pollution.