As severe drought threatens crops in northern China, a new study has suggested air pollution could be reducing valuable rainfall.
"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," said lead researcher Yun Qian.
About 2.5 million hectares of crops are seriously affected by the drought and may face crop failure in the provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang and Shanxi and in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, the ministry of agriculture said over the weekend. Autumn grain output accounts for more than 70 percent of the country's total grain output.
The drought has quickly expanded in north and northeast China since late July as a result of insufficient rainfall and continued high temperatures.
He Lifu, chief forecaster of the National Meteorological Center, said expected rainfalls in drought regions from Monday to Wednesday may alleviate the disaster.
According to the study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, air pollution in China's industrial east appears to have significantly reduced light rainfall over the past 50 years, raising the possibility that cutting pollution could ease a severe drought in the country's northeast.
Light rain - anything from a drizzle to 0.4 inches (10 mm) in a day - is also critical for agriculture, as opposed to heavy rain, which triggers floods that can wash away crops.
Researchers from the US Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that the number of days of light rainfall decreased in China by 23 percent due to air pollution between 1956 and 2005.