Letter abstract

Nature Geoscience 3, 542 - 545 (2010)
Published online: 25 July 2010 | doi:10.1038/ngeo918

Subject Categories: Atmospheric science | Biogeochemistry | Climate science

Warming influenced by the ratio of black carbon to sulphate and the black-carbon source

M. V. Ramana1, V. Ramanathan1, Y. Feng1, S-C. Yoon2, S-W. Kim2, G. R. Carmichael3 & J. J. Schauer4


Black carbon is generated by fossil-fuel combustion and biomass burning. Black-carbon aerosols absorb solar radiation, and are probably a major source of global warming1, 2. However, the extent of black-carbon-induced warming is dependent on the concentration of sulphate and organic aerosols—which reflect solar radiation and cool the surface—and the origin of the black carbon3, 4. Here we examined the impact of black-carbon-to-sulphate ratios on net warming in China, using surface and aircraft measurements of aerosol plumes from Beijing, Shanghai and the Yellow Sea. The Beijing plumes had the highest ratio of black carbon to sulphate, and exerted a strong positive influence on the net warming. Compiling all the data, we show that solar-absorption efficiency was positively correlated with the ratio of black carbon to sulphate. Furthermore, we show that fossil-fuel-dominated black-carbon plumes were approximately 100% more efficient warming agents than biomass-burning-dominated plumes. We suggest that climate-change-mitigation policies should aim at reducing fossil-fuel black-carbon emissions, together with the atmospheric ratio of black carbon to sulphate.

  1. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92093, USA
  2. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-747, South Korea
  3. College of Engineering, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52240, USA
  4. Environmental Chemistry and Technology Program, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

Correspondence to: V. Ramanathan1 e-mail: vramanathan@ucsd.edu


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