Black carbon, better known as soot, can cause serious problems in the Arctic. It settles on top of snow and speeds up the melting process because it soaks up the sun’s heat instead of reflecting it. Increased snow and ice melt are serious problems in the Arctic, and it has a number of knock-on effects that make climate change worse. Finding a way to reduce black carbon in the Arctic could actually help to mitigate some aspects of climate change, but fist we have to figure out where it comes from.
In the Russian Arctic, 35 percent of black carbon comes from residential heating, and 38 percent from transportation. Open fires, power plants, and gas flaring account for the rest. This is according to a new study that set out to get a better understanding of where the soot comes from.
There are a number of factors, but first and foremost is proximity. “High-latitude sources are especially important. Even though China, for example, releases much more black carbon than Arctic regions, reductions there have less impact per kilogram than reductions in the Arctic,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers drew on previous research that was part of an EU-funded project to study carbon emissions and how they affected the European Arctic. But while they found good agreements between model estimates of black carbon concentrations and measurements for the European Arctic site, there was a mismatch between their projections and what they found in the Russian Arctic site of Tiksi, a research station in the far eastern region of Siberia.
The more complete results they got from adding the Tiksi results showed them the importance of heating and transport in the buildup of black carbon in that region of the Arctic.
Learning more about where black carbon is coming from is a big step toward figuring out how to reduce it, because now researchers can start looking at ways to address those problems in particular. This will involve research on how to reduce black carbon production in housing and transportation in Artic Russia. These findings could probably be extrapolated to other parts of the Arctic as well.