Researchers are conducting a study of the smoke created by wildfires and its role in cloud formation and climate change. As Arizona Public Radio's Gillian Ferris reports, scientists are flying over wildfires burning in the western U.S.
Researchers are flying over large and small western wildfires to gather smoke samples and data on one of the least understood areas of climate: The role of aerosols - or particles - given off by wildfires, and how they evolve over time. Researchers from Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington State say, so far, they're finding that white smoke from smoldering fires appears to have a cooling effect on the Earth, while black smoke from more severe burns seems to have a warming effect. Researchers also say that wildfire smoke contributes to climate change by releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and by burning trees that would normally store carbon.