Research Press Release

Warming effect of aerosols from burning biomass underestimated

Nature Geoscience

August 4, 2014

Smoke particles from biomass burning, often termed brown carbon aerosols, probably absorb more sunlight than most climate models assume, concludes an article published online in Nature Geoscience. According to the study, brown carbon could be an important factor in climate warming by aerosols.

Brown carbon is emitted from forest fires and also from cooking stoves that use biomass, such as wood or crop residues, as fuel. Allen Robinson and colleagues investigated the absorption properties of smoke from biomass burning in laboratory experiments. They find that the absorption properties of brown carbon are closely linked to the soot content of the fresh smoke. They also note that the degree of warming from brown carbon aerosol depends more on burn conditions than fuel type.

In an accompanying News and Views article, Nicolas Bellouin writes “The absorption properties of organic aerosols from biomass burning […] will now need to be incorporated in climate models that can assess the climate impact in the larger context.”


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