NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 27, 2005

Carbon emissions from south Asia are contributing significantly to Arctic warming, according to a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Researchers from Columbia University and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies used satellite images to examine the effects of soot on climate change and found that Arctic warming coincided with the increase in pollution during the late 20th century.

Dark soot particles darken the surface of ice, causing it to absorb rather than reflect sunlight. As a result, ice warming increases. Soot particles also warm the air and contribute to cloud formation. Additionally:

  • South Asia's industries account for about 30 percent of Arctic soot (black carbon), while North America, Russia and Europe each contribute about 15 to 20 percent.
  • The worldwide burning of biomass (forests and vegetation) accounts for about 28 percent of Arctic soot.
  • Russia accounts for 24 percent of Arctic sulfates, while south Asia contributes 17 percent.
  • Furthermore, British scientists estimate that global warming could rise by up to 11 degrees Celsius, a two-fold increase over previous estimates.

Scientists have assumed that most emissions come from Northern Europe and Asia, but coauthor Dorothy Koch of Columbia University notes, "We were surprised to find that much of it comes from further south."

Source: Janet Pelley, Asian Soot Emissions Linked to Arctic Melting Study, Greenwire, March 24, 2005; and Dorothy Koch and James Hansen, Distant Origins of Arctic Black Carbon: A Goddard Institute for Space Studies Model Experiment, Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 110, No. D4, D04204, Paper No. 10.1029/2004JD005296, February 25, 2005.


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