A series of devastating bushfires in Australia had a greater impact on the world’s 2020 climate than the pandemic-driven lockdowns, new research indicated.
“Regional wildfires can have far-reaching climatic effects that are comparable to a major volcanic eruption,” according to the findings of a study published in Geophysical Research Letters, an American Geophysical Union journal.
By employing computer modeling, scientists compared the impact of both the fall in vehicle emissions and industrial activity during the pandemic with smoke emitted by the Australian wildfires from late 2019 to 2020.
The research showed a drop in emissions during lockdowns generated clearer skies, allowing more sunlight to reach Earth, thereby warming the planet by around 0.05 degrees Celsius.
Wildfires in Australia, on the other hand, “had a briefer but more significant impact, cooling the planet within months by about .06 degrees Celsius.”
“The main climate forcing of 2020 wasn’t COVID-19 at all,” said John Fasullo, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the lead author of the new study. “It was the explosion of wildfires in Australia.”
According to him, the research is quite significant as it shows that the impact of regional wildfires on global climate can be substantial. “There are large-scale fingerprints from the fires in both the atmosphere and ocean. The climate response was on par with a major volcanic eruption.”
The lockdowns that came into our lives due to the pandemic were perhaps climate-friendly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but forest fires that are increasing in severity will add to global warming by releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
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