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Black carbon pollution emerges as major player in global warming
Date:3/23/2008

are based on widely used computer model simulations that do not take into account the amplification of black carbons warming effect when mixed with other aerosols such as sulfates. The models also do not adequately represent the full range of altitudes at which the warming effect occurs. The most recent observations, in contrast, have found significant black carbon warming effects at altitudes in the range of 2 kilometers (6,500 feet), levels at which black carbon particles absorb not only sunlight but also solar energy reflected by clouds at lower altitudes.

Between 25 and 35 percent of black carbon in the global atmosphere comes from China and India, emitted from the burning of wood and cow dung in household cooking and through the use of coal to heat homes. Countries in Europe and elsewhere that rely heavily on diesel fuel for transportation also contribute large amounts.

Per capita emissions of black carbon from the United States and some European countries are still comparable to those from south Asia and east Asia, Ramanathan said.

In south Asia, pollution often forms a prevalent brownish haze that has been termed the atmospheric brown cloud. Ramanathans previous research has indicated that the warming effects of this smog appear to be accelerating the melt of Himalayan glaciers that provide billions of people throughout Asia with drinking water. In addition, the inhalation of smoke during indoor cooking has been linked to the deaths of an estimated 400,000 women and children in south and east Asia.

Elimination of black carbon, a contributor to global warming and a public health hazard, offers a nearly instant return on investment, the researchers said. Black carbon particles only remain airborne for weeks at most compared to carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere for more than a century. In addition, technology that could substantially reduce black carbon emissions already exists in the form of commercially
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Contact: Rob Monroe, Mario Aguilera
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
858-534-3624
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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