How the smoke from the devastating Australian wildfires completely affected the stratosphere

Not only will the stratosphere warm to 1 to 2 degrees Celsius for six months, it will also temporarily expand the hole in the ozone layer.

By the end of 2019 things were going very badly in Australia. For months, the country was devastated by a devastating wildfire. Green natural reserves were immediately transformed into blackened landscape, which is estimated to have claimed the lives of more than a billion animals. But not only is the fire fierce, it has a mark on Australian soil. Because the atmosphere is also severely affected.

More about the Australian Bushfires
Australia’s 2019-2020 wildfires were the worst. Although wildfires are an annual occurrence in Australia, this time the fire is truly merciless. It was mainly hot in Australia with a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. Therefore the period from January to November is reduced to the second warmest and driest period in the books. As the fire continued to spread widely, a state of emergency was declared in various parts of the country. Eventually, thousands of people were evicted from their homes and at least 30 people and a billion animals were killed in the fire.

The size of the fire not only destroyed a lot of land, but also left its mark on the atmosphere. For example, scientists argue that smoking in the atmosphere by fires is in competition with a larger volcanic eruption. “During the catastrophic wildfire, about 0.9 million tons of smoke was released into the atmosphere,” researcher Pengfei Yu said in an interview. The scientist says this is the largest amount ever documented in the satellite era. Also, this vast cloud of smoke traveled through the stratosphere (even part of the atmosphere extending from about 10 km to 50 km above the earth’s surface, and the famous ozone layer can be seen).

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Temperature rise
The smoke that entered the atmosphere contained different types of smoke particles. “Smoke contains soot and organic carbon,” Yu explains. And these particles can be devastating. When black carbon particles are injected into the atmosphere, their dark color ensures they absorb sunlight. Thus warming the surrounding air. Therefore, researchers argue that catastrophic Australian wildfires are 1 to 2 degrees Celsius higher than normal in the stratosphere in the Southern Hemisphere. Even after the fire was extinguished, this warming effect continued for at least six months.

Ozone layer
But the catastrophic fire not only led to a warmer stratosphere. “Smoke can alter air circulation, affect stratospheric chemistry and affect the ozone layer,” says Yu. The effect of the ozone layer is particularly interesting. Scientists discovered at the end of 2020 that at that time the hole in the ozone layer was much larger and larger than normal. In fact, Antarctica’s ozone hole has been one of the largest and deepest in recent years.

Ozone molecules
According to researchers, Australian bushfires may also be partly responsible for the expanded ozone hole. Researchers’ model shows that stratospheric smoke from Australian wildfires has destroyed ozone molecules. “A certain percentage of ozone depletion may be due to smoke,” Yu said. “This means that wildfires may have contributed to the size of the ozone hole – albeit to a lesser extent.”

Study Widespread wildfires not only had a major impact on the region, but also make it clear that the catastrophic event was felt even at great heights. In fact, researchers have shown that the worst documented wildfires in Australian history have had a lasting impact on the region’s air. “The highlight of our study is that smoking can have lasting effects on stratospheric dynamics and chemistry,” the researchers write. So we get the best picture of the widespread impact of such violent wildfires on our planet.

Learn more

What about the devastating Australian Bush fire of 2019-2020? At that time we wrote a triptych about it. Learn more about how fires can start, what the consequences of fires are, and what the Australian landscape would look like if such intense wildfires returned.

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