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Wildfire-Smoke Observations Fill Gap In Estimating Soot’s Role In Climate Change

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Black carbon, or soot, from wildfires, transportation and other sources has a big impact on global warming, but a data gap has prevented climate-change models from accurately representing that influence. New work by Los Alamos National Laboratory closes the gap with a simple parameter for climate models. CREDIT: Los Alamos National Laboratory New research refining the amount of sunlight absorbed by black carbon in smoke from wildfires will help clear up a long-time weak spot in earth system models, enabling more accurate forecasting of global climate change.

“Black carbon or soot is the next most potent climate-warming agent after CO2 and methane, despite a short lifetime of weeks, but its impact in climate models is still highly uncertain,” said James Lee, a climate researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory and corresponding author of the new study in Geophysical Research Letters on light absorption by wildfire smoke. “Our research will clear up that uncertainty.”

The Los Alamos research resolves a long-time disconnect between the observations of the amount of light absorbed by black carbon in smoke and the amount predicted by models, given how black carbon is mixed with other material such as condensed organic aerosols that are present in plumes.

The team […]

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