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Industrial pollution has caused Arctic warming since 1880s

Industrial pollution has caused Arctic warming since 1880s

Industrial pollution has caused Arctic warming since 1880s
August 9, 2007

Industrial soot emissions have been warming the Arctic since at the least the 1880s, reports a new study that examined “black carbon” levels in the Greenland ice sheet over the past 215 years. The research is published in current issue of the journal Science.

Analyzing the chemical signatures of black carbon to determine its origin, scientists led by Joseph McConnell of the Desert Research Institute at the Nevada System of Higher Education in Reno report that the amount of soot from industrial emissions surpassed those from forest fires sometime in the 1880s. The trend lasted until the 1950s.

The findings are significant because black carbon “absorbs sunlight extremely efficiently and thus can have a considerable impact on climate,” especially in areas where sunlight is usually reflected by snow and ice, according to Science Express.

“While enhanced radiative forcing from black carbon in snow results in warming and possibly summer melting on the permanently snow-covered Greenland ice sheet, potential impacts on seasonal snow covers are larger since additional warming leads to earlier exposure of underlying low albedo rock, soil, vegetation, and sea ice,” the authors write.

Model simulations by the researchers “suggest that black carbon’s impact on climate during the period from 1906 to 1910 was about eight times as strong as what was typical during pre-industrial times.” The researchers say the warming effect was strongest in the winter.

CITATION: McConnell, J.R. et al (2007). 20th Century Industrial Black Carbon Emissions Altered Arctic Climate Forcing. 10 AUGUST 2007 VOL 317 SCIENCE.

Authors included J.R. McConnell, R. Edwards, J.R. Banta and D.R. Pasteris at Desert Research Institute, Nevada System of Higher Education in Reno, NV; G.L. Kok at Droplet Measurement Technologies in Boulder, CO; M.G. Flanner, C.S. Zender and E.S. Saltzman at University of California, Irvine in Irvine, CA; M.M. Carter and J.D.W. Kahl at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in Milwaukee, WI.

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