If you lived your entire life on NASA’s International Space Station, watching the earth like some sort of space-age Rapunzel, you’d probably imagine that life on the blue planet looks a little like this — and only partly because Harry Potter has been your only companion all those lonely years in space. Mostly, it’s that the earth’s atmosphere actually does resemble a powerful wizard fire battle right now.

Spoiler: It’s not actually magic. The video above, produced by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center between September 2006 and April 2007, shows the paths of air pollution particles (called aerosols) traveling across the globe and, scientists believe, strengthening storms and cyclones.

Since Asia has some of the worst air pollution on the planet, scientists are starting their hunt for an aerosol-weather connection there. Jonathan Jiang and Yuan Wang from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory found that China’s extreme smog leads to worse weather patterns outside of tropical regions. Here’s Quartz with an explanation:

They found that the current pollution patterns, such as heavy pollution from China, lead to stronger cyclones outside of tropical regions. That’s because when storms form across the Pacific, more water condenses onto the increased aerosols. This condensation releases energy, making the storms even more powerful.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

OK, China may be particularly grimy right now, but that’s just where the scientists started their research. If you sit down for three minutes and actually watch the globe turn (take this as poetically as you please, but I’m talking about the above vid), you’ll notice aerosol hot spots on almost every continent save the poles. Unfortunately, we can’t holler “stupefy” to halt these dueling forces — well, I dunno, has anyone tried yet?

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.