Brown Clouds

Brown clouds are one of the newest and potentially one of the greatest threats to the health of our environment. Scientists are feverishly studying brown clouds as they are perhaps detrimental to the health of the environment. Brown clouds are not yet fully understood. There are still questions as to how brown clouds are formed and some scientists disagree as to what exactly causes brown clouds, however; most scientists agree that brown clouds are caused by man-made pollutants mainly fossil fuels such as coal but also from aerosols and other chemicals. Fossil fuels from coal burning, toxic chemicals and other carbon dioxide released into the environment form atmospheric brown clouds increasing the amount of greenhouses gases in the air especially in highly industrialized countries.

Although most scientists agree and say that biomass or “green” burning is safer for the environment than burning fossil fuels, some scientists argue that controlled biomass burning of wood, animal waste, controlled forest fires and plants also contributes to the formation of brown clouds, however; many scientists dispute this saying that burning green doesn’t cause the formation of brown clouds because it doesn’t add any more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
The largest brown cloud hovering over Earth is laying over Asia. The brown cloud currently hanging over this region has caused a 25% reduction in sunlight. This effects crop production and helps to create the extreme weather conditions that have been witnessed in this part of the world in recent years. The region from the Persian Gulf extending through much of Asia is covered with a brown cloud annually from November through April due to lack of monsoon rains to wash the pollutants out of the air. Brown clouds are becoming a worldwide problem. NASA has recently spotted clouds over North and South America, Europe, South America and South Africa. Individual cloud masses aren’t stationary and can move across entire continents in as little as two days.

The Himalayan Glaciers which are the primary source of water for rivers throughout many parts of Asia have shrunk by five percent in the past 50 years and scientists think the glaciers could shrink another 70% in the next 50 years. While there is no doubt that brown cloud pollution is contributing to glacial melting it is sometimes difficult to see the full impact of damage caused by brown clouds because these dense clouds help cool the earth’s surface temperatures in some areas of the world because the pollution particles found inside of these toxic clouds reflect sunlight and cool down the air.

Scientists will keep educating the public on the effects of pollution. Most of us are now aware of the need to recycle and the need to eliminate particle pollution from the air, but what scientists don’t yet know is if the effects of these brown clouds can be reversed or just how long it will take for these brown clouds to dissipate.