Fires Are Heating Up The Atmosphere
Fires are Heating up the Atmosphere
It seems each week another natural disaster breaks out somewhere in the world. It seems the number of fires, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes are increasing. They also seem to be becoming more and more devastating. It would be reassuring to tell ourselves that things aren't any different than they were twenty years ago, that we simply have a more globalised media system now, or that such events are blown out of proportion by the media themselves.
A recent study, published in Science journal, has shown this is not the case. The amount of carbon dioxide emitted by fires around the world is making a significant contribution to global warming, which in turn causes more fires. The amount of emissions caused by fires worldwide could be equal to 50% of those caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
Many of these fires, such as the Black Saturday fires, are accidental. Some are not. Deforestation in the Amazon is the biggest contributor to fire created greenhouse gas emissions. Giant stretches of forest are burnt down to create grazing pasture. Man made fires are thought to contribute as much as one fifth of the gasses releases into the atmosphere which are contributing to global warming.
While scientists have always known that fires contribute to global warming and climate change, until now the significant role they play has been underestimated. Current models on climate change have not taken fire into account as a factor.
Some of the particles that are released into the atmosphere by fire actually inhibit future rainfall. This in turn promotes drier soil, warmer temperatures and drought; All precursors to more fires. Plants harbour a large amount of carbon dioxide within their structure. When they burn, this is released into the atmosphere. In cases such as the Amazon, when rainforest is turned into grazing land, these plants and trees are never replaced. That means there is no means of the carbon dioxide released to ever be reabsorbed in the future. Gasses such as carbon dioxide further diminish the ozone layer, trapping heat within in atmosphere. This also contributes to higher temperatures.
While there has always been a natural cycle in which fires were a part, a warmer climate has increased the number of fires occurring as well as there severity. Scientists predict that this will only continue and the impact worsen as time goes on. As fire has until recently been considered a natural phenomenon, that is one that has always contributed to climate change, even before industrial times, it has been left out of many predictions and reports. Its inclusion could make the results of climate change prediction models even more devastating than they already are.