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DRI study makes Discover's "100 Top Science Stories of 2007"

McConnell, Edwards identify soot harming environment century ago

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 10, 2007

RENO - Discover Magazine in its January 2008 issue ranked research conducted by two Desert Research Institute scientists 19th in their review of the top 100 science stories of 2007.

Drs. Joe McConnell, Ross Edwards and colleagues, through a new method they developed in ice core research, determined that eight times as much black carbon was deposited in Greenland's ice from 1906 to 1910 than during the previous 100 years. Their study showed the dramatic effect of the industrial revolution on the environment.

"Joe and Ross are on the cutting edge of global climate change research," said Stephen Wells, DRI President. "The recognition they received first by Science Magazine and now Discover is well deserved."

Soot reduces reflectivity of snow and ice allowing the surface to absorb more energy from the sun. Changes in highly reflective seasonal snow covers may have resulted in earlier snow melt and exposure of much darker underlying soil, rock, and sea ice throughout the Arctic, leading to warming across much of this region in the late 19th and 20th centuries. For the Greenland ice sheet, these findings are significant because it is the largest ice mass in the northern hemisphere and darkening of the surface by soot from combustion of biomass and fossil fuels accelerates melting and increases sensitivity to warming.

McConnell said "concentrations of black carbon varied significantly from 1788 to 2002 and were highly seasonal, particularly during the period before the Industrial Revolution in North America in the mid-1800s. Starting in about 1850, soot concentrations began to rise, particularly in winter when forest fire emissions are at a minimum."

Edwards said "in order to understand why Arctic climate is changing so rapidly at present, we need to understand how and why it has changed both before and after human activities had an influence on climate. To do this properly, we need to know the seasonal history of soot deposition and its impact on Arctic snow reflectivity during the past few centuries. Our results allow this component of climate change to be incorporated into predictive climate models in a more realistic way."

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