Express View on air pollution: El Nino, La Nina – DollarJob

Express View on air pollution: El Nino, La Nina


A new study has linked air pollution over cities like Delhi and Mumbai to external factors like El Nino and La Nina, and climate change. This is the first time that such external phenomena have been noticed to have an impact over air quality in Indian cities. To be sure, these external factors do not generate any new sources of pollution. But they have the potential to influence the distribution of pollutants over different regions by altering meteorological conditions like wind patterns and temperatures.

The study found that the fact that Delhi air was cleaner than usual, and Mumbai air dirtier than usual in the winter of 2022 could, in part, be explained by the record-breaking La Nina event in the Pacific Ocean, which was persisting for the third consecutive year at that time. The study also suggested that under climate change scenarios, expected to exacerbate the strengths and frequencies of El Nino and La Nina kind of events, such external influences might have a bigger role to play in the distribution of air pollutants over Indian cities.

These influences are pretty weak as of now. As the study suggests, only very strong El Nino or La Nina events are likely to have any significant impact on the local meteorological conditions. But this could still have implications for India’s efforts to clean up its air. The influences could potentially grow stronger under climate change scenarios as the study suggests, and that would mean that clean-up measures would face another hurdle that is completely beyond human control. This could result in entirely unexpected scenarios, as was seen in Mumbai in the 2022 winter, something the cities are not prepared for.

Tackling the emissions of pollutants at source still remains the most effective way of addressing air pollution. Air in Indian cities is dirty because the baseload emissions are very high. Once in a while, favourable meteorological conditions might help in reducing the impacts, but there is no short-cut to cutting down on baseload emissions. Fancy, or quick fix, solutions like artificial rain or odd-even schemes are nothing more than window dressing, and quite ineffective at that. The study also recommends that the focus of the government must remain on long-term strategies to reduce emissions from the sources themselves and not rely on quick fix solutions. That would be a win-win solution for both air quality and climate change, it says.


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