The environmental impact of China's breakneck economic growth is being felt well beyond its borders. As China consumes more fossil fuels, US scientists worry that a sharp increase in trans-Pacific pollution could affect human health, worsen air quality and alter climate patterns.
"We're going to see increased particulate pollution from the expansion of China for the foreseeable future," said Steven Cliff, a research engineer at the University of California, Davis.
Cliff has monitoring stations in northern California. Those sites see little pollution from local sources, and the composition of the dust particles matches that of the Gobi Desert and other Asian sites, Cliff said. About a third of the Asian pollution is dust, which is increasing due to drought and deforestation, Cliff said. The rest is composed of sulfur, soot and trace metals from the burning of coal, diesel and other fossil fuels.
Cliff is studying whether transported particulate matter could affect climate by trapping heat, reflecting light or changing rainfall patterns.
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