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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Smoke from wildfires- “brown carbon”- can have lasting climate impact

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May 23, 2017 Georgia Institute of Technology  full article here at ScienceDaily

…Researchers have found that carbon particles released into the air from burning trees and other organic matter are much more likely than previously thought to travel to the upper levels of the atmosphere, where they can interfere with rays from the sun — sometimes cooling the air and at other times warming it.

Most of the brown carbon released into the air stays in the lower atmosphere, but a fraction of it does get up into the upper atmosphere, where it has a disproportionately large effect on the planetary radiation balance — much stronger than if it was all at the surface,” said Rodney Weber, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences.

…The climate is more sensitive to those particulates as their altitude increases. The researchers found that brown carbon appears much more likely than black carbon to travel through the air to the higher levels of the atmosphere where it can have a greater impact on climate….

Yuzhong Zhang, Haviland Forrister, Jiumeng Liu, Jack Dibb, Bruce Anderson, Joshua P. Schwarz, Anne E. Perring, Jose L. Jimenez, Pedro Campuzano-Jost, Yuhang Wang, Athanasios Nenes, Rodney J. Weber. Top-of-atmosphere radiative forcing affected by brown carbon in the upper troposphere. Nature Geoscience, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/NGEO2960

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