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Study: The sun's getting brighter everywhere but China

As winds die in China, pollution gets worse and blocks out more of the sun.

By
Brooks Hays
Heavy traffic inches along a main road running through Beijing's central business district on October 15, 2015. Traffic congestion in China's capital is consistently ranked one of the worst in the world, adding to social frustrations of an emerging middle class while also contributing to the city's notoriously hazardous air pollution. The combination of slow winds and heavy pollution has caused China to soak up less sunlight, new research shows. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Heavy traffic inches along a main road running through Beijing's central business district on October 15, 2015. Traffic congestion in China's capital is consistently ranked one of the worst in the world, adding to social frustrations of an emerging middle class while also contributing to the city's notoriously hazardous air pollution. The combination of slow winds and heavy pollution has caused China to soak up less sunlight, new research shows. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

GOTHENBURG, Sweden, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Since the 1990s, sunlight has been in increasing supply. Solar radiation is trending up all over the globe -- everywhere, that is, except China.

According to a new paper in Scientific Reports, weak winds and heavy pollution have led to significant solar dimming China. It's the only region where solar surface radiation is lower than it was ten years ago.

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As lower surface winds have diminished across China, particulates and aerosols have become increasingly concentrated. This haze serves to deflect the sun's rays, leading to a reduction in solar radiation. Data show that China's worst pollution occurs on days when winds slow to speeds less than 12 feet per second.

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden, collaborated with scientists from the United States and China to mathematically model the causes of solar radiation reductions. Their findings pinned 20 percent of the blame on aerosol pollution. Scientists determined the problem is magnified another 20 percent by weakened winds.

"Mapping the link between solar surface radiation and air pollution is significant since the relationship is heavily masked by clouds which play a major role in affecting solar surface radiation," Deliang Chen, a meteorologist at Gothenburg, explained in a press release.

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Researchers are now looking at how diminished solar radiation will affect photosynthesis and ecological cycles, as well as weather patterns, in China.

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