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Biomass burning may play larger role in climate change: study

LONDON, Jan. 14(Xinhua) — Biomass burning, including the burning of forests and vegetation, may play a larger role in climate change than previously thought, according to a study published Wednesday by the University of Cambridge.

While efforts to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, including ozone, tend to focus on industrial activities and the burning of fossil fuels, the new study suggests that future regulations may need to address biomass burning.


Based on observations from two aircraft missions, satellite data, and a variety of models, an international research team showed that fires burning in tropical Africa and Southeast Asia caused pockets of high ozone and low water in the lower atmosphere above Guam, a remote island in the Pacific Ocean.

For the study, two research planes on complementary missions flew over Guam measuring the levels of dozens of chemicals in the atmosphere in January and February 2014.

Researchers were surprised to find high concentrations of ozone and chemicals that they knew were only emitted by fires in the air around Guam.

Through analyzing the collected data, researchers connected nearly all of the high-ozone, low-water structures to tropical regions with active biomass burning in tropical Africa and Southeast Asia.

Based on the results of this study, global climate models may need to be reassessed to include and correctly represent the impacts of biomass burning, deforestation, and reforestation, according to the researchers.

“The measurements are now starting to produce insight into how the composition of the remote tropical atmosphere is affected by human activities occurring nearly half way around the world,” said Neil Harris, a researcher from the University of Cambridge, who is also one of the authors of the study.

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