The wildfire that has raged across more than 150,000 acres of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and Florida has sent smoke billowing into the sky as far as the eye can see. Now, new research published by the Georgia Institute of Technology shows how that smoke could impact the atmosphere and climate much more than previously thought.
Researchers have found that carbon particles released into the air from burning trees and other organic matter are much more likely than previously thought to travel to the upper levels of the atmosphere, where they can interfere with rays from the sun – sometimes cooling the air and at other times warming it.
“Most of the brown carbon released into the air stays in the lower atmosphere, but a fraction of it does get up into the upper atmosphere, where it has a disproportionately large effect on the planetary radiation balance – much stronger than if it was all at the surface,” said Rodney Weber, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences.
The study, which was published May 22 in the journal Nature Geoscience, was sponsored by the NASA Radiation Sciences Program and the NASA Tropospheric Composition Program.
CITATION: Yuzhong Zhang, Haviland Forrister, Jiumeng Liu, Jack Dibb, Bruce Anderson, Joshua P. Schwarz, Anne E. Perring, Jose L. Jimenez, Pedro Campuzano-Jost, Yuhang Wang, Athanasios Nenes and Rodney J. Weber, “Top-of-atmosphere radiative forcing affected by brown carbon in the upper troposphere,” (Nature Geoscience, May 2017). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/NGEO2960
Picture: EAS Faculty members Rodney Weber (left) Athanasios Nenes (middle) and Postdoc Yuzhong Zhang (right)
Dr. Rodney Weber obtained his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in 1995 from University of Minnesota and joined Georgia Tech as an Assistant Professor in 1998. His areas of research include tropospheric aerosol particles and development of particle measurement systems. In 2010 he won the EAS Outstanding Faculty Research Author Award and recently the College of Sciences Faculty Mentorship award. Rodney is also a member of both American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR) and American Geophysical Union (AGU).
Dr. Athanasios Nenes, Professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from California Institute of Technology in 2002. He arrived at Georgia Tech in 2002 as an Assistant Professor and promoted to Professor in 2011. His research focuses on advancing the description of aerosols and aerosol-cloud interactions in atmospheric models through the combination of observations, theory and modeling. He is also heavily involved in field measurement programs (both ground-based as well as airborne) focusing on understanding the climate and health impacts of ambient aerosol from a wide variety of sources. Dr. Nenes has recently been awarded the American Geophysical Union Ascent Award and the Georgia Institute of Technology Faces of Inclusive Excellence.