Stratospheric Changes Following Australia’s “Black Summer” Bushfires

US and Canadian research has determined smoke from the Black Summer Bushfires in 2019-2020 produced unexpected and extreme changes to stratospheric gases beyond any seen in the previous 15 years of measurements.

Massive amounts of smoke were injected into the atmosphere by the devastating bushfires that razed tens of thousands of square kilometers in the height of the summer before Covid, with fire crews battling blazes on multiple fronts across three states over almost a two month period.

The findings illustrate the large and long-lasting impact that increasing bushfire activity worldwide can have on Earth’s atmosphere. The more intense a bushfire, the more pyrocumulonimbus clouds are formed – leading to heat-induced plumes known to inject massive amounts of smoke and other combustion gases high into the stratosphere, which can affect climate and atmospheric composition in currently ill-defined ways.

According to findings studied from infrared spectrometer data gathered by the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment satellite, this influx of smoke resulted in extreme disturbances in stratospheric gas concentrations, including increases in chlorine-bearing compounds, which have the potential to destroy ozone.

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