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Sunday, May 3, 2009

An Overlooked Part of Global Climate Change

Fire is often an overlooked part of global climate change, according to a new study, which is published in the April 24th issue of Science.

Intentional deforestation fires alone contribute up to one-fifth of the human caused increases in emissions of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Excerpts from the EurekAlert article..........

In addition to carbon dioxide, methane, aerosol particulates in smoke, and the changing reflectance of a charred landscape each contribute to changes in the atmosphere caused by fire. Consequences of large fires have huge economic, environmental, and health costs, report the authors of the study.

The 22 authors of this study call on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to fully integrate fire into their assessments of global climate change, and consider fire-climate feedbacks, which have been largely absent in global models.

Jennifer Balch, a member of the research team, explains that there are bigger and more frequent fires from the western U.S. to the tropics. There are "fires where we don't normally see fires," she said, noting that it is in the humid tropics that a lot of deforestation fires are occurring, usually to expand agriculture or cattle ranching. "Wet rain forests have not historically experienced fires at the frequency that they are today."

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