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Global dimming

Global dimming is defined as the reduction of global direct irradiance at the Earths surface that was observed after the 1950s. It is thought to have been caused by an increase in particulates such as sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere due to human action. The effect varies by location, but it has been estimated to be the order of a 4% reduction over the three decades from 1960 to 1990.

Apart from the aerosols as a cause of the global dimming, there are other elements considered as a cause of it. The incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and wood releases black carbon into the air, most of which is soot. This soot is an extremely small component of air pollution at land surface levels that dims the surface of the ocean by absorbing solar radiation. As an example of that, an experiment was made in the Maldives (an island nation well known by its high levels of pollution per meter over the northern islands). It showed that there was about a 10% reduction in sunlight reaching the surface in the area under the pollution cloud. Some climate scientists have a theory were aircraft contrails (also known as vapor trails) are implicated in global dimming. The problem about it is that the constant flow of air traffic makes it impossible to be tested. This theory started to be considered as a good theory after the 9/11. The neartotal shutdown of civil air traffic during the three days following the 9/11 attacks were a unique opportunity to observe the climate of the U.S. without contrails effects. During this period, the diurnal temperature increased over a 1C. It demonstrated that aircraft contrails had been raising and/or lowering daytime temperatures more than previously thought.

Relationship to hydrological cycle

The pollution produced by humans that cause the global dimming can also be seriously weakening the Earths water cycle, reducing rainfall and threatening fresh water supplies.

The energy for the hydrological cycle comes from sunlight. It heats the ocean; water escapes into the atmosphere and falls out as rain. As aerosols and other particles cut down the sunlight, they may be spinning down the cycle.

Relationship to global warming

Is considered by some scientists that the effects of global dimming have masked the effect of global warming and also, that resolving global dimming would lead to increase the future temperatures. As global warming has become a big threat, scientists have suggested using aerosols to stave off warming, in other words, increasing global dimming as a solution to keep the planet cold. An increase of just 0.5 percent in radiation of these particles is enough to halve the effect of a CO2. These measures have many problems: using sulfates causes environmental problems such as acid rain, the use of coal causes health problems and the main one, an increase of global dimming would change even more the evaporation and rainfall patterns.

Global dimming is a phenomenon not well known by most of people but it has an important effect. It can be easily repaired but this will mean that the global warming would be even worse. So there is the question: Should we fix the dimming and increase a global warming or should we produce by our own more particles in order to increase dimming so we can slow the development of global warming.