Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New insights on wildfire smoke could improve climate change models

Date:
August 30, 2013
Source:
Michigan Technological University
Summary:
By viewing particles captured during the 2011 Las Conchas fire in New Mexico under a field emission scanning electron microscope, scientists found that there's more to tar balls and soot than meets the naked eye.

Where there's wildfire, there's smoke -- a lot of it. And those vast, carbon-laden clouds released by burning biomass can play a significant role in climate change.

However, not much is known about the different types of particles in wildfire smoke and how they affect climate. Now two Michigan Technological University researchers have uncovered some of their secrets. In particular, they studied an important component of smoke that has so far been absent from most models of climate change.

A team including Claudio Mazzoleni, an associate professor of physics, PhD student Swarup China and Michigan Tech physics alumnus Kyle Gorkowski of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, along with other LANL scientists, looked at two types of particles captured during the 2011 Las Conchas fire in New Mexico: soot, not unlike that found in diesel exhaust; and tar balls, tiny round blobs that are abundant in biomass smoke and composed largely of carbon and oxygen. Tar balls made up 80 percent of the particles from the Las Conchas fire, but they have not yet been integrated into most climate-change models.

China and Mazzoleni observed the soot and tar balls using a field emission scanning electron microscope at low voltage, which enhanced the contrast between the different particles.

Tar balls, they discovered, come in two main types in the electron microscope images: "dark" and "bright." The dark tar balls are more oxidized, and the two types likely absorb and scatter light differently.

Soot particles are even more diverse. China and Mazzoleni identified four categories of soot, from bare to heavily coated, each with different optical properties.

The team also heated tar balls and soot in a special chamber, which baked off their coatings and provided additional insights into their composition and properties.

Determining what effects these particles have on climate goes beyond understanding how much heat they might retain. For example, water vapor condenses more readily on oxidized particles, so they can play a role in cloud formation.

So, do tar balls warm or cool Earth? "We don't have an answer to that," Mazzoleni said. "The particles might be warming in and of themselves, but if they don't let solar radiation come down through the atmosphere, they could cool the surface. They may have strong effects, but at this point, it's not wise to say what. However, our study does provide modelers new insights on the smoke particle properties, and accounting for these properties in models might provide an answer to that question."

"The big thing we learned is that we should not forget about tar balls in climate models," China said, "especially since those models are predicting more and more wildfires."

The research was funded by Michigan Tech startup funds, a Michigan Tech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the National Science Foundation (award number AGS-1028998) and the US Department of Energy (award number DE-SC0006941), with additional support from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and NASA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan Technological University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Swarup China, Claudio Mazzoleni, Kyle Gorkowski, Allison C. Aiken, Manvendra K. Dubey. Morphology and mixing state of individual freshly emitted wildfire carbonaceous particles. Nature Communications, 2013; 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3122

Cite This Page:

Michigan Technological University. "New insights on wildfire smoke could improve climate change models." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130830131200.htm>.
Michigan Technological University. (2013, August 30). New insights on wildfire smoke could improve climate change models. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130830131200.htm
Michigan Technological University. "New insights on wildfire smoke could improve climate change models." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130830131200.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) An Arkansas man has found a nearly 6.2-carat diamond, which he dubbed "The Limitless Diamond," at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest

Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) At least six Nepalese guides are dead after an avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest along a route used to climb the world's highest peak. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins