Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are accelerating, even though emissions from fossil fuel burning have remained virtually the same over the past few years.
One of the reason behind this is accelerating emissions from wildfires as temperatures are rising.
Wildfires in Nevada caused CO2 to reach levels as high as 742 ppm on July 12, 2017 (green circle image on the right).
Wildfires cause a range of emissions, including CO2, soot, methane and carbon monoxide (CO). In Nevada, CO levels were as high as 30.43 ppm (green circle image right).
Above satellite image below shows the smoke plumes and the charred area. The google maps image below further shows where the fires were burning.
At the moment, wildfires are hitting many places around the world.
Wildfires caused carbon dioxide to reach levels as high as 746 ppm in Kazakhstan on July 11, 2017 (green circle on image on the right).
Carbon monoxide levels in the area were as high as 20.96 ppm on July 10, 2017.
The satellite image shows wildfires in Kazakhstan on July 9, 2017.
The satellite images show wildfires in Kazakhstan on July 11, 2017.
On July 16, 2017, CO₂ reached levels as high as 830 ppm in North America at the location marked by the green circle on the image below. Note that fires are burning at multiple locations.
The image below shows the location (red marker) where the fires burned in Canada.
That same day, July 16, 2017, CO₂ reached levels as high as 873 ppm in Mongolia, as shown by the image on the right.
The image also shows further fires burning in Siberia.
Carbon monoxide levels were as high as 37.19 ppm where the fires burned in Mongolia on July 16, 2017, as shown by the image below.
The image below shows the location (red marker) where the fires burned in Mongolia. The image also shows Lake Baikal across the border with Russia.
On July 22, 2017, CO₂ reached levels as high as 1229 ppm in Montana, while CO levels at the time were as high as 56.38 ppm at that location (green circle on image below).
The satellite image below shows the situation in Montana on the next day, July 23, 2017. See also the
NASA post Grassland Fires Tear Through Montana.
Furthermore, on July 23, 2017, CO₂ reached levels as high as 884 ppm at another (nearby) location in Montana (green circle on image below).
Meanwhile, temperatures keep rising. Surface temperature as high as 53.1°C or 127.5°F were forecast in Iran for July 11, 2017, at the location marked by the green circle on the image below.
At 1000 mb (image below), temperatures in Iran were forecast to be slightly lower, i.e. as high as 51.9°C or 125.3°F at the location marked by the at green circle, but note the difference in color, especially over Greenland, the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau.
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action as described at the Climate Plan.
Some aerosols, particularly sulfur dioxide, have a cooling effect, making that they partly mask the warming effect of other emissions by people. The IPCC AR4 image below shows that the direct and cloud albedo effect of aerosols equals a radiative forcing of as much as -2.7 W/m². In other words, if this masking effect were to fall away, warming would increase by as much as 2.7 W/m², according to IPCC AR4 figures.
Anthropogenic aerosols are also suppressing the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, making that less heat gets transferred from oceans to the atmosphere. Recent research concludes that future reduction of anthropogenic aerosol emissions, particularly from China, would promote positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation, thus further speeding up warming over the coming years.
Dimethyl sulphide emissions from oceans constitute the largest natural source of atmospheric sulphur, and such emissions can decrease with ongoing ocean acidification and climate change. This could particularly impact specific regions such as Antarctica, speeding up warming and loss of sea ice there, as discussed at this paper.
The net warming effect of open biomass burning was estimated in a 2014 study by Mark Jacobson to amount to 0.4 W/m² of radiative forcing. Imagine a scenario in which many people stopped burning fossil fuels for heating, cooking and energy. That would be great, but if many of them instead switched to burning biomass in woodburners and open fires, while wildfires increased strongly, the net warming from associated aerosols would increase dramatically.
A recent paper by James Hansen uses equilibrium fast-feedback climate sensitivity of ¾°C per W/m², while another recent paper suggest that the temperature rise per W/m² could be even stronger.
A high-end increase in net radiative forcing combined with a strong temperature rise per W/m² could cause a temperature rise as a result of changes in aerosols of as much as 2.5°C in a matter of years, as suggested in earlier posts such as this one.
• Climate Plan
• 10°C or 18°F warmer by 2021?
• Abrupt Warming - How Much And How Fast?
• Accelerating growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere
• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade
• Turning forest waste into biochar
Earlier posts on Wildfires
• Wildfires in Russia's Far East
• Wildfire Danger Increasing
• Smoke Blankets North America
• More on Wildfires
• Wildfires even more damaging
• Wildfires in Canada affect the Arctic
• The Threat of Wildfires in the North
• Russia: 74 million acres burned through August 2012
• Earth on Fire
• Fires are raging again across Russia
Further reading on wildfires and aerosols
• NASA: Grassland Fires Tear Through Montana
• 2016 fire risk for South America
• Global Fire Data - 2015 Indonesian fires
• Indonesia’s Fire Outbreaks Producing More Daily Emissions than Entire US Economy (2015)
• Indonesia’s 2015 fires killed 100,000 people, study finds
• Smoke from 2015 Indonesian fires may have caused 100,000 premature deaths
• Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests, by Abatzoglou et al.
• The Mean and Turbulent Properties of A Wildfire Convective Plume, by Lareau et al.
• Airborne measurements of western U.S. wildfire emissions: Comparison with prescribed burning and air quality implications, by Liu et al.
• Hemispheric climate shifts driven byanthropogenic aerosol–cloud interactions, by Chung et al.
• Effects of biomass burning on climate, accounting for heat and moisture fluxes, black and brown carbon, and cloud absorption effects, by Mark Z. Jacobson
• Amplification of global warming through pH-dependence of DMS-production simulated with a fully coupled Earth system model, by Jörg Schwinger et al.
• Role of volcanic and anthropogenic aerosols in the recent global surface warming slowdown, by Doug M. Smith et al.
• Slow climate mode reconciles historical and model-based estimates of climate sensitivity, by Proistosescu et al.
• Young People’s Burden: Requirement of Negative CO2 Emissions, by James Hansen