Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: A scientific assessment

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on January 16, 2013

Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: A scientific assessment. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres Accepted manuscript online: 15 JAN 2013.

  • “Black carbon is emitted in a variety of combustion processes and is found throughout the Earth system. Black carbon has a unique and important role in the Earth’s climate system because it absorbs solar radiation, influences cloud processes, and alters the melting of snow and ice cover. A large fraction of atmospheric
    black carbon concentrations is due to anthropogenic activities. Concentrations respond quickly to reductions in emissions because black carbon is rapidly removed from the atmosphere by deposition. Thus, black carbon emission reductions represent a potential mitigation strategy that could reduce global climate forcing from anthropogenic activities in the short term and slow the associated rate of climate change. Previous studies have shown large differences between estimates of the effect of black carbon on climate. To date, reasons behind these differences have not been extensively examined or understood. This assessment provides a comprehensive and quantitative evaluation of black carbon’s role in the climate system and explores the effectiveness of a range of options for mitigating black carbon emissions. As such, this assessment includes the principal aspects of climate forcing that arise from black carbon emissions. It also evaluates the net climate forcing of combustion sources that emit large quantities of black carbon by including the effects of coemitted species such as organic matter and sulfate aerosol precursors. The health effects of exposure to black carbon particles in ambient air are not evaluated in this assessment.”
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