Large-scale forest fires in Australia provoked a sharp anomaly in the stratosphere

(ORDO NEWS) — Vast swathes of wildlife and the lives of billions of animals have been destroyed by ash and smoke during the Australian summer bushfires . As a result, smoke from the fire suffocated major cities, caused fatal emergencies, and turned distant glaciers brown.

The researchers traced how some of this burned-out biomass contributed to the largest stratospheric warming in the last 30 years, and also affected the Antarctic ozone hole.

By combining satellite data with ground-based observations of aerosol behavior in computer models, University of Exeter researcher Lilly Damany-Pierce and her colleagues have found smoke rising high into Earth’s atmosphere.

The fires destroyed more than 5.8 million hectares of wildlife and were so intense that they formed their own weather patterns, including smoke-laden thunderstorms that continued for days on end.

As the researchers explain, these systems and their vortices lifted smoke to surprisingly great heights, while the sun’s rays heated the dark particles and forced them to rise further.

The first vortex, detected on December 31, 2019, reached a height of 16 kilometers. Then another plume from January 12, 2020 was eventually detected up to 35 km in the sky – far in the stratosphere and persisted for up to 2 months.

“For a month, the aerosol plume drifted across the South Pacific Ocean and was detected in the stratosphere,” the team writes in their paper.

During this time, the stratosphere experienced a dramatic global average temperature jump of 0.7 °C.

The anomalous temperatures persisted for four months, and climate modeling conducted by the researchers showed that the temperatures could not be explained without the introduction of 0.81 teragrams of smoke particles that the satellites detected in the stratosphere.

Damani-Pierce and the team of scientists note that this was the largest temperature jump in the Earth’s stratosphere since the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991.

While the surface of the Earth cooled by about half a degree Celsius, the absorption of infrared radiation by particles in the stratosphere actually led to a significant heating of this layer of the atmosphere. Smoke particles have increased the duration of the ozone hole over Antarctica.


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