A study conducted jointly by American and Israeli researchers has concluded that even the tiniest of man-emitted particles, much smaller than previously thought, is powerful enough to cause thunderstorms that can cause severe damage to crops.

A German research aircraft measuring clouds in the Amazon

Can’t see video? – Click Here

A new study co-conducted by a Jerusalem Hebrew University professor has found that thunderstorms powerful enough to cause severe damage to crops can be formed by even the tiniest man-emitted particles.

The study examined the impact of aerosols – particles that are less than one-thousandth of the width of a human hair – on phenomena such as soil erosion and water runoff. It was conducted in the Amazon, a setting that allowed the researchers to accurately observe the effects of these tiny particles, which come from urban and industrial air pollution.

An air pollution and weather observatory station in the Amazon

An air pollution and weather observatory station in the Amazon Photo credit: Daniel Rosenfeld, Hebrew University

“We showed that the presence of these particles is one reason why some storms become so strong and produce so much rain,” said Dr. Jiwen Fan of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the lead-author of the study. “In a warm and humid area where atmospheric conditions are otherwise very clean, the intrusion of very small particles can make quite an impact.”

Professor Daniel Rosenfeld, of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Earth Sciences, the second-author, added, “This groundbreaking research strongly suggests that mankind has likely altered the rainfall and weather in densely populated tropical and summer monsoon areas such as India, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and even southeastern USA.”