Arctic carbon pollution rises 85-fold due to wildfires

In August 2022, the Arctic region faced a new environmental threat. Maximum black carbon concentrations reached a level 85 times higher than background concentrations, amounting to 851 ng/m3. This was made possible by record forest fires that swept across Siberia last year. Data on black carbon concentrations were provided by Moscow State University (MSU).

MSU scientists conducted a study and found that smoke emissions from fires in Western Siberia, in the northern and central regions of European Russia, as well as in the steppe regions of the East European Plain and in the southern Urals, had the greatest impact on the composition of the atmosphere. These regions made the largest contribution to the climatically active aerosol component of the atmosphere.

Biomass burning produces aerosols, the composition of which depends on the nature of the fires. Intense burning produces black carbon, while smoldering vegetation generates various organic carbon compounds. This has been confirmed by MSU researchers.

The Arctic region is particularly vulnerable to large-scale carbon emissions. This is caused by both human activity and forest fires. Black carbon in the atmosphere is an excellent absorber of solar radiation and contributes to the warming of the Arctic climate. Since the early 1980s, the concentration of black carbon in the atmosphere has increased dramatically, leading to an increase in surface temperature in the Arctic of almost 0.3 °C.

Experts express serious concern about the consequences of this phenomenon. The increase in the concentration of black carbon could lead to further warming of the Arctic climate, which would entail serious changes in the region’s ecosystem. As scientists note, this may lead to the melting of ice and accelerated absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which in turn will increase the greenhouse effect and global warming.

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