Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

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Professor Mark Flanner co-authors landmark study on black carbon

Posted: January 17, 2013

Professor Mark Flanner co-authors landmark study on black carbon

Black carbon, the tiny particles released into the atmosphere by burning fuel, is the second most important contributor to global warming, according to a new study co-authored by Professor Mark Flanner.

The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, says the direct influence of black carbon, or soot, on warming the climate could be about twice previous estimates. 

There is potential to impact the climate immediately through reduced emissions of black carbon because unlike carbon dioxide, which stays in the atmosphere for decades or even centuries, black carbon particles only reside in the atmosphere for one to two weeks following the burning activity that produced them.

“Curbing climate warming through soot emissions is complicated, however, by the fact that climate cooling agents (like organic carbon and sulfate aerosols) are emitted along with soot when burning occurs, and thus the relative amounts of these species produced by different burning activities must be carefully considered when targeting actions for the purpose of mitigating climate change,” Flanner says. 

The study was led by the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry  (IGAC) Project and is likely to guide research efforts, climate modeling, and policy for years to come.

To read the abstract, click here.

To read the New York Times article on the study, click here.

To read the Washington Post article on the study, click here.

Photo depicting black soot

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