Haze is an airborne mix of air pollution, dust, and smoke that impairs visibility and interacts with the natural environment. It can be anthropogenic or natural in origin and plays a role in weather conditions and climate change. Researchers have dedicated substantial attention to this phenomenon since the 1970s, when climate scientists first became aware of the role haze plays in meteorology and overall climate trends. Studies on this topic frequently appear in professional journals dedicated to meteorology and climate research.
This mixture can include an assortment of aerosolized pollutants, including small particulates like soot, along with gases vented from industrial manufacturing facilities. It may be brown to blue in color and can create a plume across the landscape. While not always immediately visible to the naked eye, haze can show up in imaging studies, particularly with the use of filters to polarize the landscape and make patterns in the air more visible.
Particles in the haze can block and absorb sunshine, changing the way light behaves. This can be observed at dawn and dusk, where the light may appear especially vivid or strange because of the way the haze interrupts the transmission of light. The mixture can also appear with other pollutants like smog, and may create layers of pollution that can become trapped in areas like valleys and natural depressions in the earth, along with harbors and other low-lying areas.
Visually, it can be a problem because it cuts down on visibility. This can be an issue for navigation, photography, scientific observations, and other activities. Navigational issues can be a special concern for large craft that cannot easily stop or turn to avoid hazards. Photographers may notice, for instance, that haze obscures images shot at or near the horizon. It may be necessary to use special lenses and other tools for visibility.
Beyond visibility, haze also poses a risk to the climate. The particulates can create pockets of increased humidity and may impact precipitation rates and cloud formation. It can also contribute to warming and cooling trends by changing air patterns and the transmission of light from the sun. Furthermore, it can be a threat to human health and safety, as it may contain pollutants that enter the airways and cause irritation.
For these reasons, researchers map and track the movement of haze to learn more about how it behaves. Their goal is to prevent it if possible. They also issue advisories to members of the public if it appears set to create health problems.