Wildfire season may slow global warming

The annual North American wildfire season could provide the Arctic with temporary relief from global warming, according to a new study.

Smoke sent to the Arctic from northern forest fires may cool the surface for up to several months through affecting the amount of snow and ice cover in the Arctic.

Lead author Robert Stone of the University of Colorado and NOAA Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) said: "Smoke in the atmosphere temporarily reduces the amount of solar radiation reaching the surface. This transitory effect could partly offset some of the warming caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases and other pollutants."

Writing in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, scientists analysed how solar energy is stopped from reaching the surface relative to the smoke's opacity, the elevation of the sun above the horizon, and the brightness of the surface.

"The heating of the smoke layer and cooling of the surface can lead to increased atmospheric stability, which in turn may keep clouds from forming," said Mr Stone.

"We think that this influence of smoke aerosol on clouds further affects the balance of radiation reaching the surface in the Arctic."

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