Posted by: JohnnyRook | January 5, 2009

Reducing Soot Saves Lives AND Slows Global Warming

In 2005, Dorothy Koch and James Hansen published research on the role of soot in sea-ice melting and reduction of the earth’s albedo.

NASA continues to explore the impact of black carbon or soot on the Earth’s climate. NASA uses satellite data and computer models that recreate the climate. New findings show soot may be contributing to changes happening near the North Pole, such as accelerating melting of sea ice and snow and changing atmospheric temperatures.

Dorothy Koch of Columbia University, New York, and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), New York, and James Hansen of NASA GISS are co-authors of the study that appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.

“This research offers additional evidence black carbon, generated through the process of incomplete combustion, may have a significant warming impact on the Arctic,” Koch said. “Further, it means there may be immediate consequences for Arctic ecosystems, and potentially long-term implications on climate patterns for much of the globe,” she added.

The Arctic is especially susceptible to the impact of human-generated particles and other pollution. In recent years the Arctic has significantly warmed, and sea-ice cover and glacial snow have diminished. Likely causes for these trends include changing weather patterns and the effects of pollution. Black carbon has been implicated as playing a role in melting ice and snow. When soot falls on ice, it darkens the surface and accelerates melting by increasing absorbed sunlight. Airborne soot also warms the air and affects weather patterns and clouds.

To see the animation click here.

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Now, a new NASA GISS study confirms what the earlier study had indicated, that soot is a major contributor to Climaticide, while adding that sharp reductions in soot could have positive effects both on climate and international cooperation against global warming.

Governments could slow global warming dramatically, and buy time to avert disastrous climate change, by slashing emissions of one of humanity’s most familiar pollutants soot according to NASA scientists.

A study by the space agency shows that cutting down on the pollutant can have an immediate cooling effect and prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths from air pollution at the same time.

At the beginning of the make-or-break year in international attempts to negotiate a treaty to replace the Kyoto protocol, the soot removal proposal offers hope of a rapid new way of tackling global warming.

Governments have long experience in acting against soot.

Cutting its emissions has a virtually instantaneous effect, because it rapidly falls out of the atmosphere, unlike carbon dioxide which remains there for over 100 years. And because soot is one of the worst killers among all pollutants, radical reductions save lives and so should command popular and political support.

The study from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics concludes that tackling the pollution provides ”substantial benefits for air quality while simultaneously contributing to climate change mitigation” and ”may present a unique opportunity to engage parties and nations not yet fully committed to climate change mitigation for its own sake”.[emphasis–JR]

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