Air pollution reduction measures could impact heatwave severity, say scientists

Measures to reduce air pollution could make heatwaves more severe, a study has suggested.

Researchers believe that tiny man-made particles, such as those produced by car exhausts, could have an influence on the severity of future heatwaves.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh used a computerised model to carry out research on the impact of particles in the atmosphere.

They concluded that cutting air pollution could inadvertently make heatwaves worse in some parts of the world by disrupting the formation of clouds that reflect heat from the sun back into space.

A car exhaust
Scientists studied the impact of man-made particles on heatwave severity (Lewis Whyld/PA)

The researchers suggest this would cause peak day-time temperatures to increase, with heatwaves in the northern hemisphere more likely to be affected because of widespread efforts to improve poor air quality in countries within that region.

Professor David Stevenson, of the University of Edinburgh, said: “We desperately need to improve air quality.

“However, our results suggest that in doing so, we may inadvertently worsen heatwaves. Air pollution and climate change are inextricably linked and we need to develop smart pollution control policies that take these links into account.”

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