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Warmth Worming Its Way Through

The dense fog in the Indian capital of New Delhi (in January-February) reportedly started creating trouble for the people living in Bhola, the largest island of neighbouring Bangladesh! People on Hanimaadhoo Island of the Maldives, too, feel the heat, as this type of fog or haze – also called Atmospheric Brown Cloud (ABC) – in north-western India has triggered a change in the weather pattern (or climate) in South Asia.
A global research has revealed that the winter fog in New Delhi has a serious impact on the nature and environment especially in Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Maldives. The new study by an international group of researchers has also found that the composition of a class of carbon-carrying aerosols in the haze changes as it travels from above the landmass to the oceans. Researchers explained that the light absorption capacity of brown carbon – an important component of the haze – decreases during transport. However, its bleaching half-life is 3.6 days compared to 9-15 hours in other regions. In other words, the brown carbon stays in the South Asian atmosphere for a longer duration and could contribute to the region’s warming.

Delhi Smog

Dr Sreedharan Satheesh, a senior member of the group and an Indian meteorologist working as a Professor at the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), said that two important light-absorbing components of ABC are ‘black carbon’ and ‘brown carbon’. Black carbon comes from sources like diesel combustion, while brown carbon is a result of biomass burning. According to the new study, light absorption capacity of brown carbon decreases when it travels over the oceans. As New Delhi is situated near the Himalayas, the concentration of ‘water-soluble’ brown carbon is the highest over the Indian capital. However, it’s lower at Bhola in Bangladesh and lowest in the Maldives. It means brown carbon molecules lose their warming capacity during transport.

A satellite image of the haze over the National Capital Region (India) on October 31, 2018. Credit: NASA

Meanwhile, Örjan Gustafsson of the Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry at Stockholm University stressed: “Through measurements at three locations, we were able to determine the ability of brown carbon to absorb solar light, and thus warm the surrounding atmosphere, and how fast this ability was decreasing due to a photochemical oxidation – a process we call bleaching.” He added: “Since brown carbon in South Asia seems to have longer bleaching half-life, it has implications on warming in the region.

Delhi should take a cue from the West to fight its bad air

It seems that the Government of India will have to take necessary actions in order to give some respite to the neighbouring countries from regional warming!

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