Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Soot found to trap more heat than had been thought

Tiny black particles released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned are far more powerful agents of global warming than previously thought, according to a study by atmospheric scientists. The particles, or black carbon, are the main ingredient of soot and are the second largest contributor to global warming, behind only carbon dioxide, the authors write. The study, "Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: a scientific study," will be published online in The Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

The new estimate of black carbon's heat-trapping power is about double the estimate made in the 2007 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, notes Elisabeth Rosenthal of The New York Times. Researchers said that if indirect warming effects of black carbon are factored in, the total effect could be about three times the previously estimated rate.

"The new calculation adds urgency to efforts to curb the production of black carbon," which is released most by diesel engines in richer nations and cook stoves and kerosene lamps in poorer countries, Rosenthal reports. Forest fires can also release it. Black carbon is already being targeted by Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, a program seeking to reduce black carbon production to hinder climate change, air pollution and respiratory disease. (Read more)

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