Smoke from massive Australian bushfires warmed the stratosphere

Warming contributed to ozone hole over Antarctica

Apr 15, 2021 - by Staff

New research on massive Australian bushfires in 2019 and 2020 shows that almost 1 million metric tons of smoke rose into the stratosphere, causing it to warm by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8º Fahrenheit) for six months. This likely contributed to the large and persistent ozone hole that formed over Antarctica during the Southern Hemisphere’s spring.

The research team, led by Pengfei Yu, a former CIRES scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Chemical Sciences Laboratory, used a climate model to study the transport, microphysics, chemistry, and climate impacts of smoke from the massive bushfires. The researchers, including National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Charles Bardeen, explored how extreme volumes of wildfire smoke can cause persistent impacts to the dynamics and chemistry of the stratosphere, which lies 12 to 50 kilometers (7 to 30 miles) above the surface. The stratosphere contains the ozone layer that absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation, thereby protecting life on Earth.

The study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

For more, see the NOAA news release.

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