Is there a possibility that recent industrialization and intense pollution in Asia, particularly China, be altering the overall weather patterns in the North Pacific and the West Coast?
First of all I want to say that I have come to this possible scenario from phenomena that I have observed and the timing of everything involved, along with a bit of Internet research on the topic. Obviously, some people will agree with me on either all ideas or on some ideas, while other people will disagree with me with portions or all of what I have presented.
Have you noticed that an ever increasing number of our consumer items have been made in China in recent years? This includes clothing, furniture, electronics, knick-knacks, tools, household items, etc. During the last 15-20 years, production of goods worldwide have increasingly been outsourced by many companies to China and to a lesser extent, other parts of Asia to cut costs and to increase profit. In years past, most of our domestic products were manufactured in the United States, except for some electronics and a small percentage of other items. There are many items in which we don't have a choice between buying something made here in the U.S. or China, so Americans are forced to buy products on a daily basis that are made in China. It isn't just Walmart that sells these products; almost all other stores do so, too.
I have read an article about Asian pollution and its possible effects on climate change, which can be found at: http://fire.biol.wwu...irPollution.pdf. I included the link so everyone who is interested can read it for themselves. Some of the ideas that I have mentioned here have come from the article, including some ideas that I have heard or read elsewhere. All references to an article in my analysis here refer to only this article, unless otherwise noted.
Pollution in China has been bad for a long time, so air pollution is not really new to the area. However, there has been a tremendous increase in manufacturing in recent years due to factories in the United States and other Western countries outsourcing their manufacturing jobs there. There has been a dramatic increase in pollution to the point it has become hazardous to breathe the air sometime in the 2000's on to the present day, with smog practically so thick that it is like dense fog. The article shows a picture of Tiananmen Square on a very smoggy day and almost looks like the tule fog that often envelops the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys during the fall and winter months. The article also shows many satellite photos of various regions in China as well as surrounding areas which are shown shrouded in smog. Coal is extensively burned in China, both in industry and household use, which is one of the major sources of pollution in the region. As a result in the increased manufacturing economy in Asia, especially China, there has been a tremendous increase in the burning of coal during the last 10-15 years.
If you wish to see some images showing just how terrible the smog is in China, Google “China Smog” and make sure that you are in the “images” section. It is so horrible that people wear masks outside on a regular basis! There is one image of Tiananmen Square that was taken January 16, 2014 with a large television screen showing a sunrise because it has been so dark in Beijing due to the terrible smog. Someone who was interviewed in the Daily Mail (UK publication) article in which the picture was posted said that the smog has gotten worse in the last 2-3 years, which corresponds to the same time period of the current California drought. The link to the article and picture is: http://www.dailymail...men-Square.html
The article states that drought and flood patterns in China have changed likely as a result of this pollution. Northern China has become increasingly drier in recent years, while southern China has experienced more heavy rain and flooding events. As a result of this regional pattern change, I believe there is a real possibility that regional effect on their weather patterns is translating into a change in the general pattern downstream (in this case the NE Pacific and Arctic regions, and ultimately the West Coast) which is leading to the unusual persistence of the very amplified ridge, which in some circles has become known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge (RRR) that tends to extend from the Gulf of Alaska all the way down into California.
The pollution coming from China in my view is like a constant volcanic eruption, spreading all sorts of matter such as black carbon, CO2, and other chemical byproducts into the upper atmosphere, possibly acting as a constant forcing mechanism that is aiding in creating repetitive weather patterns especially during the winter months when coal use increases as households there also burn coal for heating. This could explain the reason that the ridging along the West Coast has been unusually persistent and resilient during the last few years. It appears that this amplified pattern began to show up around 2003 with the big summer heatwave in Europe, and increasingly became more prevalent starting about 2009-10 or so. It may be that the pollution levels have reached a tipping point recently (sometime between 2010 and 2012), along with Arctic warming (more details below), which is at least in part causing extremely amplified and certain weather patterns to become stuck in place for long periods of time. This Western ridge pattern over the last 2-3 years has had an uncanny ability to bounce back in a very short period of time, not allowing other patterns such as Western troughing to take hold for any length of time. This almost endless ridging pattern has prevented the Gulf of Alaska storm track from having any influence on West Coast weather as of late, denying the Pacific Northwest cold air outbreaks with low elevation snow, as well as denying the Sierra Nevada good old fashioned snow producing storm systems to build a healthy snowpack for California’s water supply.
Another possible occurrence that was mentioned in the article is that the Asian pollution, particularly from China, is depositing black soot on the Arctic sea ice, which is darkening the surface (less albedo), resulting in more rapid melting of the sea ice in recent years. This has become especially noteworthy from the mid-2000's on to the present day. This increase in ice melt seems to correspond to about the same time period of explosive growth in manufacturing in China.
There has been some speculation that the warming of the Arctic has led to the weakening of the north Pacific jet stream, making it more amplified and undulating as opposed to being stronger and more zonal in nature, leading to the extremely amplified weather patterns in recent years. The temperature gradient between the equatorial Pacific and the Arctic has lessened during this time frame with the Arctic warmth, which may be the mechanism that has weakened the jet stream. The warm dry West and cold Midwest is a prime example of this type of amplified pattern that has been more persistent than it used to be. Heat waves over Europe and Russia in recent years likely have been a result of a similar amplified setup.
I believe that when the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is in its warm phase, which it has been since 1995, that it triggers a pattern of a degree of ice melt in the Arctic which is a natural phenomenon. This can be seen on sea ice extent graphs that are widely available online. However, there has been a precipitous drop in sea ice around the year 2000 or just after, that has led to record low sea Arctic ice extent around the year 2007, and I feel that the pattern changes in the Arctic along with the soot from Asian pollution, mainly from China, has possibly exacerbated the situation by the process mentioned above, which has led to the very low sea ice extent from 2007 to the present. This Arctic sea ice melt appears to be a natural phenomenon that started in the 1990’s that has since been worsened by human activity in Asia, especially China, but not in the United States, Europe, or anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere.
In conclusion, the main question here is as follows: if China’s pollution is really the culprit of our recent winter weather patterns, are we in California going to remain in a perpetual drought?