Africa's worst drought tied to industrial pollution by the West

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Already in the late 1960s and then the 1970s the Hippies kept telling us that the pollution of industrial plants was causing us grief. They seem to have instinctively know, probably because they were more connected to the Earth. Acid rain was then attributed to pollution but done was nothing.

LibraryOfCongress_smoke_1942.jpg1370632048The biggest drought to hit the planet in the 20th century, the Sahel drought, sucked Central Africa dry from the 1970s to the 1990s. The severe famines that resulted killed hundreds of thousands of people during this period and gained worldwide attention.

A new study blames the dry spell on pollution in the Northern Hemisphere, primarily from America and Europe. Tiny particles of sulfate, called aerosols, cooled the Northern Hemisphere, shifting tropical rainfall patterns southward, away from Central Africa, according to research published April 24 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"Even changes from relatively far away spread into the tropics," said Dargan Frierson, a study co-author and climatologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

At the time, the cooling effect went unnoticed, overshadowed by Earth's overall warming, Frierson said. Instead, the drought was blamed on overgrazing and poor land use practices. But in the past decade, researchers have realized that aerosol pollution plays an important role in Earth's climate, he said. In certain parts of the atmosphere, the tiny particles reflect the sun's light and build longer-lasting clouds, cooling the atmosphere. Not all aerosols reflect light, and the cooling from sulfate particles offsets global warming only a regional scale, because their effects are short-lived and concentrated in high-pollution areas.

"Air pollution affects climate as well, and different parts of the planet are connected in the climate system," Frierson said.

This is, however, something that no one wanted, and I guess still the “specialists” do not want to hear, as it goes against the carbon dioxide theory for climate change. The fact is that pollution – forget carbon and carbon dioxide – is far great a climate change factor than accepted. This was what the founders of the green movement, in the form of the Hippies, warned about in the 1960s and 1970s but they were written off as crack pots and pot heads.

To understand the global climate pattern, Frierson and his colleagues first tracked rainfall data worldwide from rain gauge records from the 1930s to the 1990s. They saw the heavy tropical rainfall band called the Intertropical Convergence Zone wander back and forth near the equator, a natural phenomenon, during the 1930s through the 1950s. Ocean currents can affect the position of the rainfall band, giving it year-to-year variability.

Starting in the 1960s, the rainfall band shifted southward, drying out Central Africa and parts of South America and South Asia, the study found. At the same time, northeast Brazil and Africa's Great Lakes started to see more rain, thanks to the southerly drift.

The team modeled the reasons for the changing tropical rainfall with all 26 of the climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Every model agreed that sulfate aerosol pollution in the Northern Hemisphere triggered the terrible Sahel drought.

According to Frierson it is pretty clear that in addition to greenhouse gases, air pollution really does affect climate, and not just in one place. These emissions over the U.S. and in Europe affected rainfall over Africa.

Maybe we should stress that differently even and that is that air pollution does affect climate an climate change probably more than does the emission of so-called greenhouse gases.

The so-called brown- and black carbon is nothing but soot and it is this that, to a great extent, is the causal agent of the melting of the glaciers, especially, but not only, in the Himalayas.

The Hippies were concerned more than half a decade ago about air pollution and the affect it was going to have on the Planet and on the health of the people and while the cleaning up of much of the chimneys of the Northern Hemisphere, finally, in the 1980s brought about some reduction, the amount of cars on our roads and the pollution from places such as China and India are a major factor today. And those can cause problems, as was the case with the Sahel, thousands of miles away.

Time to change the way we live and work in order to survive and clean up the Planet. In fact, it was time in the time of the Hippies but very little was done and has been done since.

© 2013