At this point, we're painfully aware of the fact that global warming causes a number of natural disasters; from rising sea levels, to wildfires, to floods, climate change has done a number on our planet. But one undeniably strange side effect of the climate crisis is what's known as global dimming — scientists have noticed the planet becoming increasingly dark for several decades now, and it's only recently been connected to climate change.
Keep reading for more on how global dimming has been observed over the years, its connection to climate change, and how it will ultimately affect planet Earth in the long run.
What is global dimming? Scientists have been aware of it for several decades now.
In the late 1980s, scientists first started noticing that less of the sun's light was reaching the Earth's surface, a phenomenon that was labeled as "global dimming," according to Science Alert. Extensive studies showed that certain parts of the world, including the Soviet Union, had been receiving 30 percent less sunlight since the 1950s. But why was this happening? For a long time, the answer was unclear.
At the time, scientists assumed that planet Earth was experiencing increased cloud coverage, but scientists couldn't figure out why this would be. Was this a natural occurrence, or was it somehow caused by human activity? However, experts were able to get a better grasp on the matter upon making the discovery that — even without clouds — the amount of sun coming through to planet Earth was still fluctuating.
The connection between global dimming and pollution was only made recently.
Scientists were still unclear regarding the cause of global dimming, until something extremely unusual happened — a few years after aerosols were banned and completely cleaned up in the Soviet Union, according to EcoWatch, the ongoing trend of global dimming completely flipped. Suddenly, the Soviet Union started receiving more sunlight than before.
But, the connection between pollution and haze in the atmosphere was only recently discovered. In a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, pollution-inducing haze was blocking the sunlight. The study's lead author, ETH Zurich professor Martin Wild, looked at extensive records from Potsdam, Germany, and filtered out impacts of clouds. He noted that after certain regions enacted clean air legislations in the '90s, they started receiving more sunlight.
"This implies that aerosol pollutants play a crucial role in these variations and points to a discernible human influence on the vital level of sunlight required for sustainable living conditions," the authors wrote.
Is increased global brightening a good thing?
Although cleaner air has shown to reverse global dimming, it seems as though global brightening isn't exactly ideal this day in age. According to The Guardian, dimming may have concealed some of the impacts of warming that were induced by greenhouse gases. Regions that have experiencing the opposite effects of of dimming have unsurprisingly seen skyrocketing temperatures.
Cleaning up the planet after years of polluting it comes with a double-edged sword — the haze caused by global dimming was actually obscuring the havoc we've been wreaking for so many years. Hopefully scientists will continue to study how this will impact our planet in the long run.