Black carbon (BC), or soot, is formed from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass and lingers in the atmosphere for days or weeks before being deposited on the land or ocean. Unlike carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, which can survive in the atmosphere for decades and centuries, black carbon has a relatively short life span. BC is part of a group of pollution sources known as Short-Lived Climate Forcers (SLCFs), including methane gas and tropospheric ozone, which are produced on earth and are potent global warmers.
BC absorbs sunlight at all wavelengths and re-emits the energy as heat, causing a range of climate impacts, including increased temperatures and accelerated ice and snow melt. The data visualization above, based on data from NASA’s Goddard Chemistry Aerosol and Transport (GOCART) model, simulates the atmospheric concentration of black carbon between August and November of 2009. Note the production of black carbon from industrialization in China and biomass burning in Africa, as well as the movement of black carbon across the oceans of the world.
For more information:
- Effects of Biomass Burning on Climate & Health
Credit: Horace Mitchell (NASA/GSFC)