“When soot from fossil fuel combustion and wildfires drifts onto the Arctic ice and snow, it helps feed a spiraling cycle of warming, melting ice and rising sea level.
“New research carried out at remote locations across the Arctic shows that most of the soot—also known as black carbon—is coming from coal power plants, cars and trucks and factories. The findings could help countries begin to control this climate pollutant.
“Some people think it’s biofuels and wildfires, but our main takeaway is that fossil fuels are the main source of black carbon in the Arctic,” said Patrik Winiger of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the lead author of a study published 13FEB19 in the journal Science Advances.
“Black carbon (BC) contributes to Arctic climate warming, yet source attributions are inaccurate due to lacking observational constraints and uncertainties in emission inventories. Year-round, isotope-constrained observations reveal strong seasonal variations in BC sources with a consistent and synchronous pattern at all Arctic sites. These sources were dominated by emissions from fossil fuel combustion in the winter and by biomass burning in the summer. The annual mean source of BC to the circum-Arctic was 39 ± 10% from biomass burning. Comparison of transport-model predictions with the observations showed good agreement for BC concentrations, with larger discrepancies for (fossil/biomass burning) sources. The accuracy of simulated BC concentration, but not of origin, points to misallocations of emissions in the emission inventories. The consistency in seasonal source contributions of BC throughout the Arctic provides strong justification for targeted emission reductions to limit the impact of BC on climate warming in the Arctic and beyond.” – Patrik Winiger for the authors