The increased use of non-renewable energy resources is usually considered the main cause of extreme climate change in the past few decades. However, scientists at Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JLP) conducted studies that suggest the reduction in atmospheric aerosols can have a stronger impact on extreme winter weather compared to greenhouse gases.
Aerosols are a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in air or any other gas. About 90% by mass of aerosols are of natural origins and the most common types of aerosols are sea salt, dust, and volcanic ash. Scientists suggested that the overtime reduction of man-made aerosols have resulted in a change in the swiftly moving channel of air (flowing from west to east) and surface temperature in the Northern Hemisphere. It was mentioned that due to tighter air pollution regulations, as the percentage of atmospheric aerosols decreased, there were fewer particles in the atmosphere to reflect sunlight which resulted in a local warming effect.
When a jet stream (swiftly moving channel of air) bends towards the south, it can carry cold arctic air to southern latitudes where it is most needed. However, due to the warmer temperatures in Europe, a stronger temperature gradient between Europe and the North Pole is created which locks the jet stream into a stable and straight position resulting in no cold winds in the southern regions. Scientists are worried that since China is to enact air pollution regulations that will lead to the reduction of aerosols, a familiar effect could be seen in Eastern Asia as well which would result in even warmer weather.