Controlling Soot is Key in Saving Arctic Sea Ice

Thomas Schueneman

The best way to slow the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice is to reduce soot emissions from burning fossil fuels, wood, and dung. This is the conclusion of a Stanford University study published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research (Atmospheres).

Reducing soot emissions key to reducing Arctic sea ice melt

The paper, authored by Mark Z. Jacobson, director of Stanford's Atmosphere/Energy Program, say that soot is second only to carbon dioxide as a contributor to global warming.

Controlling soot may be the only method of significantly slowing Arctic warming within the next two decades,” says Jacobson “We have to start taking its effects into account in planning our mitigation efforts and the sooner we start making changes, the better.”

Because soot has been "mischaracterized" in previous climate models, it has been "ignored completely" in international and national climate policy.

Jacobson's work has focused on developing a model that uses weather, global climate, and air pollution data over the past 20 years to analyze how soot heats clouds, snow, and ice. He stresses the importance of mitigating the rapid increase of Arctic sea ice melt.

There is a big concern that if the Arctic melts, it will be a tipping point for the Earth's climate because the reflective sea ice will be replaced by a much darker, heat absorbing, ocean below,” he said. “Once the sea ice is gone, it is really hard to regenerate because there is not an efficient mechanism to cool the ocean down in the short term."


Living Planet