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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Did you witness a somewhat hazy morning in your town today? Don't blame your spectacles, blame the aerosols. The big revelation is aerosol suspension in the lower atmosphere in coastal Odisha, parts of western and northern Odisha is as worse as in Delhi today.

A study of the Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) of Odisha for today revealed that  in districts like Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapada, Cuttack, Khurda, Ganjam, Gajapati, Jharsuguda and parts of Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar adjoining Jharkhand measured AOD in the range of 0.4- 0.5. Significantly, the AOD of Delhi for today is also measured at around 0.5 -0 8.

However, when the AOD in districts like Dhenkanal and Angul was measured at around 0.5-0.8, places in districts like Rayagada and Koraput have AOD worse than Delhi. The AOD there is measured at 0.9 - 1, which is categorised as the worst pollution level.

The solace for the State is the atmosphere in rest of the districts in the State is not that worse as the AOD there is measured at around 0.2. However, as per NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) data, the  AOD of US is 0.1 - 0.15. And 0.01 is considered the cleanest air.

What is Aerosol? A suspension of tiny particles like dust, smoke and pollutants (particulate matters) in the atmosphere. High concentration of aerosol is considered dangerous because, it has the potential to block the sunlight by absorbing or scattering it. The absorption, basically done by carbon particles in the suspension, leads to rise in the temperature, which is known as global warming.

A study by lead scientist at IIS, Bangalore, Prof GS Bhatt,  who conducted a CAIPEEX study (Cloud Aerosol Interaction and Precipitation Enhancement Experiment) in Odisha a few years back, explained that aerosols have a  close interaction with the clouds and together they determine rainfall over a landscape. But he warned that high concentration will impede the rainfall and heighten the possibility of intense thunder squalls.

The reality check of the AOD shows why Odisha is increasingly witnessing more spells of lightning and thunder squalls nowadays.

The new Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy, who took charge today, has also been the chairperson of Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) and for him,  curbing the high aerosol build up in Odisha air will be a big challenge. Because, controlling the aerosol concentration has direct effect on lightning mortalities in Odisha, which has now emerged as the biggest natural disaster in the State.

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