NILU - The Norwegian Institute for Air Research

The Arctic: Forest fires cause of concern

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Courtesy of Courtesy of NILU - The Norwegian Institute for Air Research

Large and increasingly frequent forest fires in boreal regions world wide are the primary cause of atmospheric long range transport of particles into the Arctic. 

In a scientific paper published in The Journal of Geophysical Research 9th June 2006, senior scientist Adreas Stohl at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), shows that an increasing number of Boreal forest fires represent a growing threat threat to the Arctic region.

It was realized only recently that boreal wildfire emissions influence the atmospheric composition on a hemispheric scale. Already, there are speculations that deposition of black carbon-particles from boreal forest fires could contribute to the melting of Arctic glaciers and sea ice. Black carbon absorbs solar radiation and can lead to a strong albedo reduction if deposited on snow or ice.

Anthropogenic (human made) emissions in South and East Asia have been growing rapidly during the past decades. Black carbon emissions are now much larger there than in Europe, North America and Russia combined. Scientists world wide are therefore concerned about what effects the growing Asian pollution could have on our global climate, particularly it’s potential contribution to global warming.

Stohl’s work indicates that the threat from Asia is not as great as believed up until now.

- The Asian contribution of atmospheric air pollution into the Arctic region is less than 10 percent of the total. Main sources are the growing number of large forest fires in boreal regions around the globe. (Boreal region: Forest areas of the northern North Temperate Zone: dominated by coniferous trees such as spruce, fir and pine). If the climate in the northern hemisphere continuous to warm up and dry up, the number of forest fires will continue to grow, says Stohl.

The Arctic: Forest fires cause of concern

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