A Mediterranean tropical-like cyclone, also called a medicane, was recorded south of Italy on Oct. 27, 2005. A Mediterranean tropical-like cyclone, also called a medicane, was recorded south of Italy on Oct. 27, 2005. A new study confirms that human-produced emissions are affecting weather patterns. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Is man-made pollution making storms more severe?

Research shows that even the smallest of man-made particles can intensify thunderstorms, which can lead to soil erosion, runoff and damaged crops.

In case you're still wondering what kind of impact something as commonplace as your car's exhaust is having on the environment ... wonder no more.

A new study from an international team of researchers – including Dr. Jiwen Fan at the U.S. Department of Energy and Professor Daniel Rosenfeld of the Institute of Earth Sciences at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel – found that even the smallest particles from man-made emissions can fuel severe storms and influence weather. That, in turn, can wreak serious havoc on crops and agriculture.

Abstract blur palm leaves moving in hurricane. It's not just in your head – storms are actually getting more intense. (Photo: hbpictures / Shutterstock)

To conduct their research, the scientists went to a largely untouched area of the Amazon and studied the impact of ultrafine particles on thunderstorms. What they found confirmed that humans have greatly contributed to climate change.

Scientists set up this air pollution and weather observatory station in the Amazon. Scientists set up this air pollution and weather observatory station in the Amazon. (Photo: Daniel Rosenfeld/Hebrew University)

"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," said Rosenfeld, who did his post-doc at NASA before returning to Israel.

While scientists have known that these particles play an important role in shaping weather and climate, the new study shows that even the smallest of man-made particles can have an outsize effect, creating more severe thunderstorms which in turn, may lead to soil erosion, runoff and damaged crops.

“We showed that the presence of these particles is one reason why some storms become so strong and produce so much rain. In a warm and humid area where atmospheric conditions are otherwise very clean, the intrusion of very small particles can make quite an impact," Fan said.

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Is man-made pollution making storms more severe?
Research shows that even the smallest of man-made particles can intensify thunderstorms, which can lead to soil erosion, runoff and damaged crops.