Soot's effect on global warming much stronger than thought

  • Blog Post by: Colleen Stoxen
  • January 15, 2013 - 3:34 PM

Soot ranks as the second-largest human contributor to climate change, according to a new analysis released Tuesday, exerting twice as much of an impact as previously  thought.

Short-lived pollution known as soot, such as emissions from diesel engines and wood-fired stoves, has about two-thirds the climate impact of carbon dioxide. The analysis has pushed methane, which comes from landfills and other forces, to third place as a human contributor to global warming. The four-year, 232-page study of black carbon is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.

Black carbon, or soot, accelerates warming because the fine particles absorb heat when they are in the air and when they darken snow and ice. Although some lighter-colored fine particles can have a cooling effect because they block sunlight, other black carbon sources have a warming effect because they absorb it. They also accelerate glacier melting and can disrupt regional weather patterns.

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