Increased amounts of air pollution in China over last 50 years reduces days of rain by up to a quarter

New research shows that air pollution in eastern China has reduced the amount of light rainfall over the past 50 years and decreased by 23 percent the number of days of light rain in the eastern half of the country. The results suggest that bad air quality might be affecting the country's ability to raise crops as well as contributing to health and environmental problems.

The study links for the first time high levels of pollutants in the air with conditions that prevent the light kind of rainfall critical for agriculture. Led by atmospheric scientist Yun Qian at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the study appears August 15 in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

"People have long wondered if there was a connection, but this is the first time we've observed it from long-term data," said Qian. "Besides the health effects, acid rain and other problems that pollution creates, this work suggests that reducing air pollution might help ease the drought in north China."

Drier Times

China's dramatic economic growth and pollution problems provide researchers an opportunity to study the connection between air quality and climate. Rain in eastern China — where most of the country's people and pollution exist — is not like it used to be.

Over the last 50 years, the southern part of eastern China has seen increased amounts of total rainfall per year. The northern half has seen less rain and more droughts. But light rainfall that sustains crops has decreased everywhere. A group of climate researchers from the U.S., China and Sweden wanted to know why light rain patterns haven't followed the same precipitation patterns as total rainfall.

Previous work has shown that pollution can interfere with light rain above oceans, so the team suspected pollution might have something to do with the changes over land. Light rain ranges from drizzles to 10 millimeters of accumulation per day and sustains agriculture. (Compared to heavy rain that causes floods, loss of light rain has serious consequences for crops.)

While the light rains have diminished, pollution has increased dramatically in China in the last half of the 20th century. For example, while China's population rose two and a half times in size, the emissions of sulfur from fossil fuel burning outpaced that considerably — rising nine times.

Sky Gremlins

Air pollution contains tiny, unseen particles of gas, water and bits of matter called aerosols. Aerosols — both natural and human-caused (anthropogenic) — do contribute to rainfall patterns, but the researchers needed to determine if pollution was to blame for China's loss of rain and how.

To find out, the team charted trends in rainfall from 1956 to 2005 in eastern China, which has 162 weather stations with complete data collected over the entire 50 years.

From this data, the team determined that both the north and south regions of eastern China had fewer days of light rain — those getting 10 millimeters per day or less — at the end of the 50 year timespan. The south lost more days — 8.1 days per decade — than the north did, at 6.9 days per decade. However, the drought-rattled north lost a greater percentage of its rainy days, about 25 percent compared to the south's 21 percent.

"No matter how we define light rain, we can see a very significant decrease of light rain over almost every station," said Qian.

Up Up & In the Way

To probe what caused the loss of rainfall, the team looked at how much water the atmosphere contained and where the water vapor traveled. Most parts of eastern China saw no significant change in the amount of water held by the atmosphere, even though light rains decreased. In addition, where the atmosphere transported water vapor didn't coincide with light rain frequency.

These results suggested that changes in large-scale movement of water could not account for the loss of the precipitation. Some of pollution's aerosols can seed clouds or form raindrops, depending on their size, composition and the conditions in which they find themselves. Because these skills likely contribute to rainfall patterns, the researchers explored the aerosols in more depth.

Cloud droplets form around aerosols, so the team determined the concentration of cloud droplets over China. They found higher concentrations of droplets when more aerosols were present. But more droplets mean that each cloud droplet is smaller, in the same way that filling 10 ice cream cones from a quart of ice cream results in smaller scoops than if the same amount were put in only five cones.

This result suggested that aerosols create smaller water droplets, which in turn have a harder time forming rainclouds. The team verified this with supercomputer models of pristine, moderately polluted or heavily polluted skies. In the most heavily polluted simulation, rain fell at significantly lower frequencies than in the pristine conditions.

An examination of the cloud and rain drops showed that these water drops in polluted cases are up to 50 percent smaller than in clean skies. The smaller size impedes the formation of rain clouds and the falling of rain.

Qian said the next step in their research is to examine new data from the DOE's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility in the central eastern Chinese city of Shouxian. The data was collected from April to December of 2008.

"This work is important because modeling studies of individual cases of pollution's effect on convective clouds have shown varying results, depending on the environmental conditions," said coauthor Ruby Leung. "The ARM data collected at Shouxian should provide more detailed measurements of both aerosols and clouds to enable us to quantify the impacts of aerosols on precipitation under different atmospheric and pollution conditions."

The work was supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the DOE Office of Science under a bilateral agreement on regional climate research with the China Ministry of Science and Technology.

Energy Efficient Tape Solution Simplifies Backup with Easy Management, Integrated Security and Intelligent Self-Monitoring
 
Spectra Logic announced the U.S. Army’s Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) agency in Michigan awarded Spectra Logic with a federal contract for two Spectra T950 tape libraries using LTO-4 technology.
 
The U.S. Army TARDEC removed a Sun StorageTek L700e tape library and replaced it with the T950, and realized immediate savings in backup operator time and cost, freed several square feet of data center floor space, increased capacity by 990 percent and eased administration through the library’s user-friendly management interface.  With two Spectra T950 libraries, the U.S. Army TARDEC was able to designate one for classified data and the other for unclassified data, which eased its administrative burden. The Spectra T950 tape libraries work with Symantec NetBackup software to back up and protect more than 22TB of data weekly.
 
“Spectra Logic continues to expand its presence throughout the Department of Defense with this recent success at the Army TARDEC,” said Brian Grainger, vice president of sales. “The Spectra T950 leads the market with the highest storage density available today along with significant energy and space savings, and ease of use, all contributing significantly to the U.S. Army contract award.”

Members Work for Global Collaboration in the Fight against Cyber Crime

The rise of cyber attacks - and the call for global collaboration on solutions that reduce the threat - has led the United States Secret Service to become the sixth government agency to join Transglobal Secure Collaboration Program (TSCP).

The move reflects a growing awareness of the need for a united effort and common solutions to defend against the advanced persistent threat of cyber attacks against nations and commercial organizations alike. High-profile attacks, such as GhostNet and the U.S. electrical grid infiltration, create the imperative for government agencies and private industry to work together on viable and robust solutions that protect electronic information regardless of where it resides.

The U.S. Secret Service joins the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), U.K. Ministry of Defence, Netherlands Ministry of Defence, and France's Network and Information Security Agency (ANSSI), to provide critical insight into the real-world applications of solutions and processes that can protect mission-critical information and intellectual property from theft by politically motivated cyber criminals.

TSCP is the only government-industry partnership dedicated to helping member organizations equip themselves with the necessary means to combat computer-related crimes. As a member of TSCP, the U.S. Secret Service adds to its already formidable portfolio of cyber defense initiatives, including an Electronic Crimes Task Force and Electronic Crimes Special Agent Program.

"As the Secret Service continues to seek new and innovative ways to combat the increasing threat presented by transnational criminal organizations, our ability to partner with the private sector and academia has become the key to our success," said Michael P. Merritt, assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service.  "Membership, on both the Governance Board and the Executive Committee of TSCP, is an honor, and the Secret Service is looking forward to becoming a trusted partner with all TSCP members."

Membership with TSCP offers an extension of resources, expertise, and capabilities, creating a global network of government agencies, aerospace and defense (A&D) companies, and software vendors who unite under the TSCP mantle to collaboratively address the most critical issues in cyber security today.

"Our mission is to foster secure collaboration through federation so that information can be protected while being shared in a global environment. In an era characterized by persistent cyberthreats, we reach out to U.S. and international governments and A&D companies to bring them together to develop solutions that protect information for global collaboration, so business gets done - around the corner and around the world," said Keith Ward, TSCP chairman. "The U.S. Secret Service is a welcome addition to this effort, bringing additional expertise and insight into best-practices for defending against the growth of sophisticated cyber attacks."

In addition to government agencies, TSCP members include BAE Systems, Boeing, EADS/AIRBUS, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce and Finmeccanica.  Partner members include Exostar.

 For more information, please visit www.tscp.org.

President Barack Obama today announced his intent to nominate physicist Patrick Gallagher to be the 14th director of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Gallagher, 46, is currently the NIST deputy director.
 
“NIST is a unique agency with a strong culture of world-class scientific achievement,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “Pat Gallagher has come up through the ranks and his continued leadership will be critical to an agency that is central to the nation’s ability to innovate and compete in global markets.” 
 
If confirmed by the Senate, Gallagher will direct an agency with an annual budget of approximately $800 million that employs approximately 2,900 scientists, engineers, technicians, support staff and administrative personnel at two primary locations: Gaithersburg, Md., and Boulder, Colo. Gallagher will succeed William Jeffrey, who left NIST in 2007.
 
Though perhaps most widely known as the civilian provider of the nation’s standard time service, NIST also conducts research in measurement science, standards, and related technologies spanning all physical sciences, engineering and information technology. 
 
The agency also is home to the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a nationwide network of local centers offering technical and business assistance to smaller manufacturers; the Technology Innovation Program, which provides cost-shared awards to industry, universities and consortia for research on potentially revolutionary technologies that address critical national and societal needs; and the Baldrige National Quality Program, which promotes performance excellence among U.S. manufacturers, service companies, educational institutions, health care providers and nonprofit organizations.
 
Gallagher, who has a doctorate in physics from the University of Pittsburgh, came to the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) in 1993 to pursue research in neutron and X-ray instrumentation and studies of soft-condensed matter systems such as liquids, polymers and gels. 
 
In 2000, Gallagher was a NIST agency representative at the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and became active in U.S. policy for scientific user facilities. In 2006, he was awarded a Department of Commerce Gold Medal, the department’s highest award, in recognition of this work. In 2004, he became director of the NCNR, a national user facility for neutron research that is considered one of the most productive and heavily used facilities of its type in the nation. In September 2008, he was appointed deputy director of NIST.
 
Gallagher is active in a variety of professional organizations and is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
 
Founded in 1901, NIST is a nonregulatory agency of the Commerce Department that promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.

Over the last six years Enabling Grids for E-sciencE (EGEE) has grown to become the world's largest multi-disciplinary grid infrastructure, with tens of thousands of users. In Barcelona this month the flagship EC-funded project meets for its final annual conference. Next year will see the inauguration of EGEE's successor, the European Grid Initiative (EGI), and this pivotal gathering of the grid community will allow for reflection on the successes of the project, as well as marking a major step forward on the path towards a nationally-focused sustainable grid infrastructure, to benefit all European researchers for years to come. The transition from EGEE to EGI represents a welcome move from short-term project funding to sustained support on a national and international level, which will enable users to continue using grid infrastructures – now and in the future.

Successes have been numerous and EGEE already caters for a multitude of disciplines. This final annual conference is an opportunity for the user communities to showcase their work and achievements, and demonstrate the power of grid technology. There will be live demonstrations from diverse scientific research fields, including many from medical research - notably neuGrid, studying degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, RadioTherapy Grid optimising the use of radiotherapy in cancer treatment and EUAsiaGrid helping research into monitoring future flu pandemics.

While the medical community has benefited greatly it is not the only one to increasingly rely on grids. The computing power and data storage offered by EGEE has allowed scientists to think big - from modelling weather using the grid with WRF4G, predicting the distribution of marine life with AquaMaps, to EUAsiaGrid’s software helping authorities to cope in the aftermath of an earthquake. The breadth and quality of scientific research supported by EGEE is a testament to the versatility of computing grids.

It is this versatility that has attracted industry. EGEE has worked with the business community since the early days of grids. Each year, the dedicated business track increases the collaboration between EGEE and industry.  This year is no different, demonstrating the evolution of grid computing by highlighting not only key areas such as cloud computing and service level agreements, but also unveiling prime examples of technology transfer from science and academia to commercialisation.

With cloud computing generating increasing excitement in the business community, EGEE is working to integrate the two services. Two sessions at EGEE’09 will present a range of projects working on grids and clouds, such as StratusLab which is bringing grids and clouds together to create benefits for both science and industry.

As in previous years, the conference has attracted major grid computing figures from around the world as keynote speakers, including locally-based speaker Gonzalo Merino from PIC, who is in charge of Spain’s Tier-1 data centre for the Large Hadron Collider, Jennifer Schopf, from the National Science Foundation’s Office of CyberInfrastructure in the US and Kostas Glinos, who leads the Géant & e-Infrastructures Unit of the Directorate General for Information Society and Media at the European Commission. EGEE’09 will also be a key milestone in the preparations of pan-European projects defined within the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), presented at the conference by Professor John Wood, chair of the European Research Area Board and former Chair of ESFRI.

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