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Is China's pollution behind our harsh winters?

(NPR) It’s March. It’s freezing. And there’s half a foot of snow on the ground. When is this winter going to end?

Many scientists think that climate change might be one cause of this year’s snowpocalypse in Boston and bitter cold snaps in New York and Washington.

But physicists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been looking into another culprit: air pollution in China and India.

“Over the past 30 years or so, man-made emission centers have shifted from traditional industrialized countries to fast, developing countries in Asia,” physicist Jonathan Jiang writes in an email.

So what does a bunch of extra pollution from Asia do to clouds over the Pacific? It makes them bigger and heavier with more precipitation, Jiang and his colleagues reported last year.

“Atmospheric particles can serve as cloud nuclei and foster cloud formation,” Jiang writes. The particles give water vapor something on which to condense.

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