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Black Carbon: Playing a Major Role in Arctic Climate Change

Sooty particles emitted during the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels (petroleum, coal), biofuels, and biomass (wood, animal dung, etc.) can do more than just create unsightly pollution and provoke respiratory problems. Known within the scientific community as black carbon, research and modelling conducted in recent years shows that this dark-coloured aerosol has been playing a significant role in climate warming through its absorption of solar radiation. Its impact is heaviest in the cryosphere, where its presence can reduce snow albedo and can lead to faster melting of snow on land and on sea ice.

Greenland landscape

In a recently published article, SciencePoles has a closer look at black carbon’s role as a climate forcing agent, how it came to be recognised as such by the scientific community, and the immediate benefits of reducing black carbon emissions. The article also links to two interviews with polar scientists who are currently conducting research on black carbon’s effects on snow albedo during the IPY:

  • In the first interview, Dr. Stephen Warren, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle talks about his current research project, in which he is taking Arctic snow samples from different locations across the Arctic and bringing them to labs to be analysed. The project is a follow-up to the broad-scale survey of Arctic snow that Clarke and Noone were involved with back in 1983-84.
  • In the second interview, Dr. Charles Zender, Associate Professor and Director of at the University of California, Irvine and Dr. Florent Dominé, CNRS Research Director at the Laboratoire de Glaciologie et G
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