MAY 29, 2021 9:47 AM PDT

Climate Models Overestimate Role of Greenhouse Gases in Global Warming, Says New Study

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Researchers have that there was four times more soot in the pre-industrial Southern Hemisphere's atmosphere than previously thought. These findings mean that climate models may have overestimated the impact of greenhouse gases on the climate. 

One of the biggest challenges in predicting the impacts of climate change is predicting how surface temperatures will rise according to increases in greenhouse gases. While greenhouse gases trap heat and warm the planet’s surface, aerosol particles from volcanoes, fires and other forms of combustion have a cooling effect as they block out sunlight or seed cloud cover. 

Understanding how these factors interact is key to understanding the effects of climate change. While many of today’s climate models rely on data of past levels of greenhouse gases, the same data for smoke aerosols from before the Industrial Revolution has been largely unknown until now. 

To get data on aerosol levels, the researchers analyzed 14 ice cores taken from across Antarctica indicating amounts of smoke from fires across the Southern Hemisphere. Inside these cores, they measured levels of soot, a key component of smoke. In doing so, the researchers found some unexpected results. 

The ice cores contained four times more soot than expected, suggesting a much more fiery past than previously thought. The researchers then verified their findings with computer simulations accounting for these levels of smoke from wildfires and the burning practices of indigenous people. 

Results from the simulations matched those from the ice cores. They also suggested that as land-use changes led to decreased fire activity, emission from industry increased. This meant that soot levels remained relatively constant from before the start of the industrial era into the 20th century. 

The findings suggest that, until now, scientists have underestimated the cooling effect of smoke particles in the pre-industrial world. It, in turn, means that climate models may have over-estimated the warming effect of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to account for observed increases in surface temperatures. 

"Clearly the world is warming but the key question is how fast will it warm as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. This research allows us to refine our predictions moving forward," says Loretta Mickley, senior author of the paper.

 

Sources: EurekAlertScience Advances

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
MAR 09, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Meteorite Parked in UK Driveway May Hold Clues to Planet Formation, Early Life
MAR 09, 2021
Meteorite Parked in UK Driveway May Hold Clues to Planet Formation, Early Life
Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx have spent years trying to intercept asteroids & collect samples. This meteor made it a little ...
MAY 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Oxygen Conditions Needed for Emergence of Complex Life Discovered
MAY 21, 2021
Oxygen Conditions Needed for Emergence of Complex Life Discovered
For some time, scientists have supported the ‘Oxygen Control Hypothesis’. The theory states that higher leve ...
JUL 11, 2021
Space & Astronomy
A Black Hole-Neutron Star Merger Makes Waves
JUL 11, 2021
A Black Hole-Neutron Star Merger Makes Waves
Researchers have found evidence of two mergers of black holes and their companion neutron stars about 900 million light- ...
JUL 19, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Hubble Space Telescope Back from the Brink; In Working Condition after Hardware Swap
JUL 19, 2021
Hubble Space Telescope Back from the Brink; In Working Condition after Hardware Swap
After a month-long hiatus from its routine scientific operations, 31-year-old Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is back in wo ...
AUG 05, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Einstein Was Right, Again: X-rays Observed Behind a Black Hole for the First Time
AUG 05, 2021
Einstein Was Right, Again: X-rays Observed Behind a Black Hole for the First Time
  In an astrophysics first, a team of researchers have directly observed light coming from the backside o ...
SEP 16, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
American Astronomical Society Commits to Open Access Journals
SEP 16, 2021
American Astronomical Society Commits to Open Access Journals
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) will move to open access format by January 1, 2022. AAS publishes six journals: ...
Loading Comments...