How To Predict Brown Carbon’s Effect On Climate

 How To Predict Brown Carbon’s Effect On Climate

“We found order in the chaos,” says Rawad Saleh, a postdoctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon University and lead author of the study. “Now we have this framework that unifies the seemingly discordant results reported by various research groups: the warming effect of brown carbon depends on the conditions under which it is produced.”

These findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, could help improve global climate predictions.

The team focused on the major sources of brown carbon: wildfires.

Smoke from wildfires accounts for one-third of the Earth’s “black” carbon—the familiar black soot that is second only to carbon dioxide in warming the planet. While black carbon is relatively simple—consisting solely of carbon—brown carbon contains a complex soup of organic material, making it difficult to identify, characterize, and model.

Frustrated Carbon

“You might call brown carbon frustrated black carbon,” says Neil Donahue, a professor of chemical engineering and a principal investigator of the study. “You get brown carbon when the wood isn’t fully cooked all the way.”

Brown carbon warms the atmosphere similarly to black carbon, but the prevalence and warming efficiency of brown carbon in wildfire smoke has been a large question mark.

To study brown carbon from wildfires, the researchers simulated a series of wood burning events, setting fire to a range of tree, grass, and brush types representative of vegetation in areas known for wildfires.

The team then measured the smoke’s ability to absorb light—and thus to induce warming—with a collection of state-of-the-art air monitoring equipment.

Burning Conditions

The study found that the amount of brown carbon produced in a fire had little dependence on what was being burned. Instead, brown carbon emissions correlated with the amount of black carbon in the smoke, which is dictated by the burning conditions, such as flaming and smoldering phases, and is relatively easy to measure.

“That’s a huge simplification in terms of estimating the emissions of brown carbon and predicting the effects on climate,” says Allen Robinson, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and a principal investigator of the study. “If every different tree produced different amounts of brown carbon, that just makes it really, really complicated.”

The Department of Energy Atmospheric Science Research Program and the National Science Foundation Atmospheric Chemistry Program supported the research.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University


English Afrikaans Arabic Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional) Dutch Filipino French German Hindi Indonesian Italian Japanese Korean Malay Persian Portuguese Russian Spanish Swahili Swedish Thai Turkish Urdu Vietnamese


Jay Inslee Tells Hayes That He Wants To Gut The Filibuster To Fight Climate Change
Washington Governor Jay Inslee is running for president on the single issue of climate change and argues that doing…
Causes and Effects of Climate Change
by National Geographic
What causes climate change (also known as global warming)? And what are the effects of climate change? Learn the human…
Extreme Weather and Global Warming
by NASA Goddard
Is the frequency of extreme weather events a sign that global warming is gaining pace and exceeding predictions? Bill…
Thanks to Climate Change, Wet Winters No Match for Drier California Summers
by KPIX CBS SF Bay Area
If the emerald-green hills around Northern California have you thinking recent rains have put a damper on the fire…
Climate Change Is Not One Issue
"Climate change is not one issue," said David Wallace-Wells, author of "The Uninhabitable Earth," but is…
The Heat: Climate change
by CGTN America
Images gathered by NASA show an increase in foliage in China and India. The greening effect is mainly due to ambitious…
No company is doing enough to combat climate change: Jeremy Grantham
by CNBC Television
Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of GMO, on climate change and what needs to be done to combat it.
Power Plants Are POISONING Groundwater All Over America
by The Ring of Fire
According to a new report, 90% of coal-fired power plants across the country have completely contaminated the…


Default Image
Come on, UK weather forecasters – tell it like it is on climate change
by Adam Corner
They have a national reach that most climate campaigners would die for. They are familiar and respected experts on the…
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
by David Roberts
One of the elements of the Green New Deal resolution that has caused the most consternation among critics on the right…
Default Image
UK environmentalists target Barclays in fossil fuels campaign
by Matthew Taylor
A UK-wide campaign is being launched to persuade one of the country’s biggest high street banks to stop investing…
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
by Tim Radford
What does oceanic carbon uptake achieve? Greenhouse gas that sinks below the waves slows global warming a little and…
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
by Global Warming & Climate Change
“Climate change plus growth equals an existential threat,” Mr. Bevan said. To avoid severe water shortages, he added,…
Default Image
Record high US temperatures outpace record lows two to one, study finds
by Associated Press
Over the past 20 years, Americans have been twice as likely to sweat through record-breaking heat rather than shiver…
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
by BBC News - Science & Environment
Image copyright PA Image caption Low water levels at Wayoh Reservoir near Bolton in the UK heatwave in July 2018 Within…
Default Image
Why you'll never meet a white supremacist who cares about climate change
by Rebecca Solnit
As the news of the Christchurch mosque massacre broke and I scoured the news, I came across a map showing that the…