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Climate Change Is Already Affecting US

Update Date: May 07, 2014 09:02 AM EDT
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Rising temperatures in United States might result in a 70 percent increase in unhealthy summertime ozone levels by the year 2050, according to a new research. 

According to the study, global warming, higher atmospheric methane levels and other climate-related changes could result in chemical reactions that increase the overall levels of ozone. 

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the US Department of Energy, noted that without 'drastic' cut in the associated pollutants, nearly all parts of the continental US will experience at least a handful of days with unhealthy air during summer months. 

Parts in the East, Midwest and West Coast are already heavily polluted because ozone levels frequently exceed recommended levels. Researchers said these places could experience unhealthy air during nearly all of the season.

"It doesn't matter where you are in the United States - climate change has the potential to make your air worse," lead author Gabriele Pfister of the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Earth System Laboratory, said in a statement Monday. "A warming planet doesn't just mean rising temperatures, it also means risking more summertime pollution and the health impacts that come with it."

The study is first of its kind that has been conducted with advanced geosciences supercomputing capabilities. 

However, the study also showed a sharp reduction in the emissions of some types of pollutants that would lead to drastically reduced ozone levels, regardless of temperatures growing warmer. 

"Through a series of 'what if' simulations, atmospheric chemists, climate modelers, regional modelers and developers of emissions scenarios demonstrate that a balance of emission controls can counteract the increases in future temperatures, emissions and solar radiation that in turn lead to decreases in surface ozone," she added.

Statistically, according to the study, 90 percent of the time ozone levels in 2050 would range from 30 ppb to 87 ppb, compared to estimated present-day levels of 31 ppm to 79 ppb. 

"Unlike ozone in the stratosphere, which benefits life on Earth by blocking ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, ground-level ozone can trigger a number of health problems. These range from coughing and throat irritation to more serious problems, including aggravation of asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema," the NCAR said in a statement according to redOrbit. "Even short periods of unhealthy ozone levels can cause local death rates to rise. Ozone pollution also damages crops and other plants."

The new research will be appearing in the American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

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