PALO ALTO, Calif. (KCBS) _ For years, greenhouse gases have been at the center of the global warming discussion.
But Stanford researcher Mark Jacobson said we should also be addressing another culprit: soot.
“Dark stuff coming into the atmosphere from the burning of diesel, jet fuel and shipping fuel,” said Jacobson. “And other types of fuel that produce dark, smoky products.”
Jacobson has spent more than a decade studying the global warming impacts of soot, from the burning of both biofuels and fossil fuels.
He said that unlike greenhouse gases, which can persist in the atmosphere for decades, soot lingers for only a few weeks, meaning that soot-reduction efforts can have a very rapid impact.
“If you eliminate emissions of soot, most of its temperature reduction will occur pretty quickly because you’re reducing the atmospheric concentration almost immediately,” Jacobson said.
He said that soot is second only to carbon dioxide in contributing to global warming and plays an especially critical role in warming above parts of the Arctic Circle.
“When soot is over snow, it not only absorbs sunlight coming down,” he said. “It also absorbs sunlight that’s reflected off the snow coming back up. So there’s a double whammy or double absorption.”
Jacobson has completed an extensive study of the impacts of soot and his findings are published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.