Tell us about your experiences with Marketplace. Enter To Win

China’s pollution could be a benefit for the U.S.

Sarah Gardner Dec 6, 2011

China’s pollution could be a benefit for the U.S.

Sarah Gardner Dec 6, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: At a conference in San Francisco today, researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography will present new findings about severe winter storms in California. They’ll show a linkage between those storms and air pollution from Asia.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sarah Gardner explains.


Sarah Gardner: Air pollution from dust storms in central China has been wafting over to the U.S. for years. Now researchers say it may be intensifying precipitation in California’s Sierra Nevada.

Atmospheric chemist Kim Prather compared cloud particles from two winter storms there. One contained lots of local air pollutants, mainly wood smoke. The other? Mostly dust pollution from China’s deserts. Turns out the China dust produced a lot more precipitation.

Kim Prather: It was about 1.4 times as much snow coming down. And from the standpoint of collecting our water supply, if it comes down in the form of snow, that’s considered better for us because it’s an easier way to store our water supply in California.

That’s possibly the most positive spin you can put on dust pollution. But Prather cautions much more research is needed.

Prather: You know, there’s lots of reasons you can get a lot more snowfall.

Prather plans to continue sampling the pollutants in California’s snowfall for more clues.

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.