"Can bushfire smoke reduce the concentration of ozone in the stratosphere? A
decade ago, we might have been sceptical. But there’s a growing body of
research showing a clear link.
Last year, MIT expert Susan Solomon and colleagues published a groundbreaking
study showing the 900,000 tonnes of bushfire smoke and particles emitted during
Australia’s 2019–20 Black Summer did, in fact, thin out the ozone umbrella that
Ozone floats around 20–25 kilometres above our heads, acting like airborne
sunscreen. Its concentration is tiny – up to 15 parts per million – but it is
highly effective at blocking damaging ultraviolet-B rays from the sun. Without
this layer, many plants would die, while humans and other animals would be
afflicted with skin cancers.
The Black Summer fires burned so much forest and scrub across the country they
produced massive pyrocumulus clouds. The fires were making their own weather,
sending plumes of smoke into the higher reaches of our atmosphere, where smoke
particles interacted with ozone. That single Australian summer of fire took out
1% of the atmosphere’s ozone – damage that will take a decade to fix.
Now, Solomon’s researchers have found out how smoke actually does it. In their
new research, they detail the chemistry involved. This research is important,
as we enter what’s been dubbed the Pyrocene – the age of fire – with bushfires
already growing in size and intensity as the world heats up."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics