by J. Thomas Gebauer, ASLA
A recently published four-year-long study stated that “black carbon” or more commonly known as soot is the second largest human-contributer to climate change. Black carbon comes from wood burning stoves, trash burning, coal burning, diesel engines and prescribed wildfire events. While black carbon is a large contributor to global warming, the effects are relatively short lived (when compared to carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide) As the soot will fall out of the atmosphere after suspension much faster. That translates into directly noticeable results from changes in practice. Improvements in diesel quality, efficiency of diesel engines and reduction of wood burning have dropped the United States black carbon output quite drastically but other less developed countries, especially in China and South East Asia, continue to produce more and more black carbon as a result of lacking standards and relying more heavily on wood burning for winter heat.
With the release of this highly respected study, many researchers have started to pay more attention to black carbon and are monitoring the effects that it has on the environment to better understand what the implications really are. A team of researchers at Colorado State University are monitoring the effect of black carbon on the soils and waters that were affected by the recent High Park Fire which burned near Fort Collins in June of 2012.
With wildfires being a natural event that has taken place on Earth for millennia, it will be interesting to see what the team of researchers decide the environmental impacts are in relation to global warming, water quality and soils.
Soot is also the largest contributor to urban smog and unsafe breathing conditions in cities. As a leading cause of respitory ilnesses and diseases, cutting down on soot emissions would also lead to healthier cities.