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Black Carbon

Have you ever had a fire in your fireplace? Burning logs leaves a black powdery material behind called soot. Soot is also made when we burn coal, gas or oil for energy.  Humans have been burning these fossil fuels for energy for over 300 years.  Scientists call soot black carbon.

Black carbon is very dark black or brown. When it is released into the air, it warms the air. When it settles on the ground, it warms the ground. If soot settles on snow or ice, it warms the snow or ice and causes them to melt.  Even though soot can be made of very small bits, it can have a big warming impact on Earth!

Scientists say that black carbon is the second largest cause of global warming, after carbon dioxide. If we can lessen black carbon output, we can lessen global warming. The technology needed to do this already exists. New laws will help encourage companies to use these new technologies. We also need to get cleaner burning cookstoves to people in developing nations. Reducing black carbon around the world will also cut down on air pollution, which improves human health.

Last modified May 13, 2011 by Jennifer Bergman.

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The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on Earth System science, including articles on student inquiry, differentiated instruction, geomorphic concepts, the rock cycle, and much more!

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