The Best Way to Stop the Melting of Arctic Ice and Himalyan Glaciers: Reduce Soot

“The Only Way to Significantly Slow Arctic Warming Over the Next Two Decades”

Preface: Climate activists and skeptics can agree on 6 things. This is one of them.

Professor Mark Jacobson – director of Stanford’s Atmosphere and Energy Program and professor of civil and environmental engineering – says that soot is the primary cause of melting arctic ice:

Soot from diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and burning wood is a bigger cause of global warming than previously thought, and is the major cause of the rapid melting of the Arctic’s sea ice, Stanford climate experts say.


Black and brown carbon in soot [are] an even more powerful contributor to global warming than industrial emissions of methane, which until now have been considered the second most important cause of climate change, Jacobson said.

And because soot absorbs sunlight as it falls on ice and snow and radiates back to Earth from clouds and layers of the atmosphere, it is the major reason for rapidly melting sea ice in the Arctic region, he said.

Controlling soot may be the only way to significantly slow Arctic warming over the next two decades, Jacobson said.


Controlling the soot created by burning fossil fuels, like oil and coal, and from burning wood and dung “may help to reduce Arctic ice loss and global warming faster than any other control option available,” Jacobson concluded.

Indeed, the ability of soot to melt snow and ice is so well-known that, in the 1970s, scientists – including Obama’s top science adviser – proposed pouring soot over the arctic to melt the ice and so prevent the ice age which scientists feared.

We’ve previously noted that soot has been discovered to be a leading cause of snow and ice melting in the Arctic and the Himalayas, soot has a much faster influence on temperature than CO2, and that it is relatively easy to reduce soot.

Time Magazine wrote in 2009:

Black carbon [another name for "soot"] in the air actually absorbs sunlight as it comes from space, directly heating up the atmosphere. “The soot particles are like the parts of a blanket, and it’s getting thicker,” says Ramanathan. “The smoke absorbs sunlight and heats the blanket directly.”

The world’s leading crusader against global warming – Dr. James Hansen – said in 2003:

Soot in snow and ice, by itself in an 1880-2000 simulation, accounted for 25 percent of observed global warming.

NASA wrote in 2005, based on Hansen’s work:

Soot Affects Polar Ice

Posted March 26, 2005

black carbon Any Climate Treaty Which Does Not Dramatically Reduce Soot Is Not Worth the Paper Its Written On
download large image

Far in the frigid north, glaciers rule and temperatures are harsh. It is not the sort of place one would expect pollution to be a problem, but new NASA research reveals that soot is traveling farther north than previously believed. Soot, or black carbon, could have a huge impact on the delicate Arctic environment by speeding up the melting of Arctic ice, altering temperatures and cloud formation, and changing weather patterns.

Black carbon is released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are not completely burned, either in vehicles, home heating appliances, or when trees and other plants are burned. When large quantities of soot enter the atmosphere, they create a haze that absorbs energy from the Sun, so the temperature of the atmosphere increases. This atmospheric heating can affect weather patterns and cloud formation.

Dorothy Koch and James Hansen, climate scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), modeled the transport of black carbon particles around the world using the GISS general circulation model. The above images show some of their results. The top image shows where black carbon is concentrated in the atmosphere, and thus where surface temperatures and weather patterns might be affected, and the lower image shows where carbon is predicted to settle on the ground.

In the top image, the regions with the most haze—higher optical thickness—are white, while the least-affected areas are blue. As the image shows, Koch and Hansen found that soot in the atmosphere is most concentrated over southern and eastern China, where industry pumps black carbon into the atmosphere, and over central Africa, where fires are widely used for agriculture. Other regions with high concentrations of black carbon include the United States, Central Europe, and India. The model also reveals that instead of being clear of soot, the Arctic is blanketed with black carbon haze. About one-third of the haze, Koch and Hansen say, comes from Asia, one-third comes from fire around the world, and the remaining third comes from the United States, Russia, and Europe.

Soot does not stay in the atmosphere; it falls out in rain or with dust. Koch and Hansen’s research reveals that soot might have a longer range than previously believed, with higher concentrations reaching far into the Arctic. As dark soot falls on the snow and ice of the Arctic, it turns the white, reflective surface into a dark surface that absorbs the Sun’s energy. This extra energy makes the snow melt more quickly.

Studies by other mainstream scientists also demonstrate that much of the melting of Himalyan glaciers is due to soot:

Soot emitted when fuels like diesel, wood and coal are burned, may have a bigger impact on climate in some areas than greenhouse gases. New research presented here at the American Geophysical Union meeting shows that the 20 percent decrease in the extent of Himalayan glaciers since the 1960s may be partly due to an influx of black carbon [i.e. soot] from Asian cities.

As NASA writes:

A new modeling study from NASA confirms that when tiny air pollution particles we commonly call soot – also known as black carbon – travel along wind currents from densely populated south Asian cities and accumulate over a climate hotspot called the Tibetan Plateau, the result may be anything but inconsequential.

In fact, the new research, by NASA’s William Lau and collaborators, reinforces with detailed numerical analysis what earlier studies suggest: that soot and dust contribute as much (or more) to atmospheric warming in the Himalayas as greenhouse gases.

Indeed, some scientists think that the role of soot is much bigger. As an article from 2002 pointed out:

The research, published in this week’s Science, suggests that soot — produced by diesel engines, cooking fires and other sources — could have nearly as much impact on climate change as carbon dioxide, which has long been considered the primary culprit in global warming.

A group of US and Chinese researchers used a global climate model to simulate how black carbon affects weather patterns. They found that soot can influence regional climate by absorbing sunlight, heating the air and affecting rainfall.

Emissions of soot are particularly large in China because cooking and heating are done with wood, cow dung and coal at low temperatures that do not allow for complete combustion.

And an article published in the journal Nature Geosciences (subscription required) concludes “increasing concentrations of black carbon have substantially contributed to rapid Arctic warming during the past three decades”, and that aerosols are responsible for “half or more” of Arctic warming.

Indeed, Dr. Hansen himself now admits:

Black soot is probably responsible for as much as half of the glacial melt.

A paper published by the National Academy of Science in July 2009 notes:

Our ability to predict how global temperatures will change in the future is currently limited by the large uncertainties associated with aerosols. Soot aerosols represent a major research focus as they influence climate by absorbing incoming solar radiation resulting in a highly uncertain warming effect. The uncertainty stems from the fact that the actual amount soot warms our atmosphere strongly depends on the manner and degree in which it is mixed with other species, a property referred to as mixing state. In global models and inferences from atmospheric heating measurements, soot radiative forcing estimates currently differ by a factor of 6, ranging between 0.2–1.2 W/m2, making soot second only to CO2 in terms of global warming potential. This article reports coupled in situ measurements of the size-resolved mixing state, optical properties, and aging timescales for soot particles. Fresh fractal soot particles dominate the measured absorption during peak traffic periods (6–9 AM local time). Immediately after sunrise, soot particles begin to age by developing a coating of secondary species including sulfate, ammonium, organics, nitrate, and water. Based on these direct measurements, the core-shell arrangement results in a maximum absorption enhancement of 1.6× over fresh soot. These atmospheric observations help explain the larger values for soot forcing measured by others and will be used to obtain closure in optical property measurements to reduce one of the largest remaining uncertainties in climate change.

This is a new discovery. As Time notes:

The science is evolving — it’s so new that black carbon wasn’t even listed as a warming agent in the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — but it cannot be ignored.

Soot Has a More Immediate Effect than CO2

The key is that there is a much shorter lag time between soot and temperature that between CO2 and temperature. As Time writes:

Unlike CO2, which can hang around in the atmosphere for centuries — CO2 that was emitted by the first coal-powered train is probably still in the air, warming the planet — black carbon has a relatively brief life span. It remains just a few weeks in the air before it falls to earth. That’s key, because if the world could reduce black carbon emissions soon, it could help blunt warming almost instantly. “You can wait a week or a month and the totals in the atmosphere can be significantly different,” says Eric Wilcox, an atmospheric scientist with NASA. Meanwhile, if we were to vastly reduce new CO2 emissions immediately, the billions of tons that already exist in the atmosphere would keep warming the planet for decades.

As the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development writes:

Because black carbon only remains in the atmosphere for several days to weeks, reducing it can bring about almost immediate mitigation of warming, whereas decreases in temperature lag reductions in CO2 by 1,000 years or more.

Good News

Time points out that it is relatively easy to reduce soot:

The good news is that while taking CO2 out of our energy cycle has proven very difficult — especially in poorer developing nations — black-carbon emissions should be easier to curb. Reducing deforestation will help — the burning of tropical rain forests is a big contributor to the black-carbon load. Next, diesel filters in cars can be upgraded, and biomass-burning stoves can be exchanged for technology that uses solar power or natural gas. These changes will cost money, but they should be cheaper than decarbonization. And cutting back on black carbon will also pay immediate health dividends, with less air pollution and fewer deaths from respiratory diseases. We might even be able to see the sky in New Delhi again.

Similarly, Dr. Ramanthan notes in a new paper:

A neglected fast-action strategy presented in the paper is reducing black carbon soot, an aerosol produced largely from the incomplete combustion of diesel fuels and biofuels, and from biomass burning. It is now considered to be the second or third largest contributor to climate change.

“If we reduce black carbon emissions worldwide by 50% by fully deploying all available emissions-control technologies, we could delay the warming effects of CO2 by one to two decades and at the same time greatly improve the health of those living in heavily polluted regions,” said Dr. Ramanathan.

The New York Times also notes the cost-effectiveness of reducing soot:

Decreasing black carbon emissions would be a relatively cheap way to significantly rein in global warming — especially in the short term, climate experts say …

For these reasons, any international treaty or domestic law which does not focus on significantly reducing soot is not worth the paper it’s written on.

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  • Dredd

    More recent studies are a better source than older ones (New Climate Change Policy – Triage).

    The north pole (Arctic) is not the primary concern for ice-cap melt, the south is (Antarctica).

    Especially since the most recent study-results show that the models informing scientists that the Eastern Antarctic Ice sheet would take centuries to melt were in error (ibid).

    If the Eastern Antarctic ice sheet melt continues to accelerate, along with the Western Antarctic ice sheet’s accelerating melt, sea level will rise as much as ~215 feet (including the Arctic’s smaller amount).

    Recently this was also said:

    But excellent as [soot removal] is, the world’s soaring carbon dioxide emissions remain the elephant in the atmosphere. They are the single biggest contributor to rising temperatures, will remain in the atmosphere for 100 years, and unless drastic action is taken to mitigate them, costly and dangerous climate change will not be averted.

    (ibid, quoting The Economist).

  • Jason Hart

    Maybe the ice isn’t melting in the Artic – turns out it it isn’t in the Himalayas, despite alarmist reports by the IPCC:

  • Jason Hart

    And by the way, polar bear numbers in the Hudson Bay area are reportedly stable:

  • Jason Hart

    Also Mr Washington, as you are clearly onto he truth re: AGW, but are taking a most diplomatic approach, here for your benefit is the original Wikipedia Climategate article:

    Compare it with the completely sanitized & basically censored article now at Wikipedia in its place, blandly named the (ahem) Climatic Research Unit email controversy

    How deep does the rabbit-hole go, Mr Washington?

  • Jason Hart

    (Forgive the several separate posts, I just realized “Conservapedia” derives from “Conservative”, which you are not, neither am I, nor am I American, by the way; I took it to mean conserve-encyclopedia, as in, it conserves articles that have been censored from Wikipedia, but I realized I was wrong. Either way, I take the truth from whence it comes, & the article linked above is indeed the original Wikipedia article, subsequently removed. I trust in you to read the text & use your powers of discrimination, as you always do – thank you for your excellent work, I am an avid reader of your blog. JH)

  • Jason Hart

    Last one: Google brazenly censored searches for “Climategate” while it was a hot topic: – all in a good cause, eh.

  • gozounlimited


    They are causing global warming by increasing the greenhouse effect with Chemtrails.This is why the ice caps and the ice shelf in green land is melting at an accelerated rate. This will cause post glacial rebound effect which is why Europe is in the midst of a deep freeze, it will also cause an increase of earth quakes. There is a real potential that there will be mega disasters caused by the increase pressure of the sediment being dumped in the oceans from the Ice shelf melting. pressure on the ocean floor can cause the land mass to shift in a very violent way. They are killing many birds with one stone. They poison us and at the same time create mega earth changes. WAKE UP PEOPLE!

    see video:

    Want to make a bit of money by creating a global warming scam? Spray a few chemtrails, melt a bit of ice, take a picture of a polar bear surrounded by water, and WALLA! a global warming crisis that can be used to manipulate the public into accepting a carbon tax for breathing. Or how about creating storms that wipe out cities that can be rebuilt in a more pleasing manner for the rich and powerful? You could wipe out local farming communities by creating drought in certain areas, declare a particular fish endangered, then take the farmers’ water in the name of ecology, and allow them to go bankrupt. The land could then be used for a more suitable purpose such as a wildlife preserve so that the rich and powerful can have a playground.

    The possibilities are endless, and the cost? Well, the American people can pay for it with their tax dollars. The ramifications? What are a few billion deaths from chemical poisoning, starvation, malnutrition, and disease? Why, a much needed benefit, of course. After all, according to the Georgia Guidestones, the population needs to be reduced to 500 million in order to maintain the earth in the manner that the rich and powerful New World Order mafia would like it to be.

    See video ….. article:
    NASA Scientist: Persistent Contrails Cause Global Warming
    Buried under years of misinformation and refusal to acknowledge the existence of deliberately planted aerosols known as persistent contrails or “chemtrails” is an article published in 1997 entitled:


    Published in the Christian Science Monitor, this article is a bombshell. (emphasis mine)

    BOSTON — Patrick Minnis studies satellite images of aircraft contrails and thinks of climate change. Those pretty patterns in the sky may not be as benign as they look. They may be inducing enough extra cloudiness over heavily traveled Northern Hemisphere regions to significantly warm the ground below.

    “When we look up at the sky or down from a satellite, it’s possible we are viewing a cloud that would not have been there if it hadn’t been for a jet aircraft,” Dr. Minnis says. Sketchy contrail statistics gleaned from satellite images had suggested jet trails would be climatically insignificant. Minnis says “we know better than that [now].”

    Satellite analysts had not connected sharply defined contrails seen in some images with cirrus clouds seen subsequently in other images covering other areas.

    Minnis – an atmospheric scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. – has made that connection. He took part in a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) field experiment in May 1996.

    Infrared images taken every 15 minutes by the GOES-8 weather satellite enabled him to track distinctive contrails for six hours or more.

    Read more here:
    Dr. Timothy Ball

    Global Warming is not due to human contribution of Carbon Dioxide Global Warming: The Cold, Hard Facts?

    February, 2007

    Global Warming, as we think we know it, doesn’t exist. And I am not the only one trying to make people open up their eyes and see the truth. But few listen, despite the fact that I was the first Canadian Ph.D. in Climatology and I have an extensive background in climatology, especially the reconstruction of past climates and the impact of climate change on human history and the human condition. Few listen, even though I have a Ph.D., (Doctor of Science) from the University of London, England and was a climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg. For some reason (actually for many), the World is not listening. Here is why.

    What would happen if tomorrow we were told that, after all, the Earth is flat? It would probably be the most important piece of news in the media and would generate a lot of debate. So why is it that when scientists who have studied the Global Warming phenomenon for years say that humans are not the cause nobody listens? Why does no one acknowledge that the Emperor has no clothes on?

    Believe it or not, Global Warming is not due to human contribution of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). This in fact is the greatest deception in the history of science. We are wasting time, energy and trillions of dollars while creating unnecessary fear and consternation over an issue with no scientific justification. For example, Environment Canada brags about spending $3.7 billion in the last five years dealing with climate change almost all on propaganda trying to defend an indefensible scientific position while at the same time closing weather stations and failing to meet legislated pollution targets.

    No sensible person seeks conflict, especially with governments, but if we don’t pursue the truth, we are lost as individuals and as a society. That is why I insist on saying that there is no evidence that we are, or could ever cause global climate change. And, recently, Yuri A. Izrael, Vice President of the United Nations sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed this statement. So how has the world come to believe that something is wrong?

    Maybe for the same reason we believed, 30 years ago, that global cooling was the biggest threat: a matter of faith. “It is a cold fact: the Global Cooling presents humankind with the most important social, political, and adaptive challenge we have had to deal with for ten thousand years. Your stake in the decisions we make concerning it is of ultimate importance; the survival of ourselves, our children, our species.” wrote Lowell Ponte in 1976.

    I was as opposed to the threats of impending doom global cooling engendered as I am to the threats made about Global Warming. Let me stress I am not denying the phenomenon has occurred. The world has warmed since 1680, the nadir of a cool period called the Little Ice Age (LIA) that has generally continued to the present. These climate changes are well within natural variability and explained quite easily by changes in the sun. But there is nothing unusual going on.

    read more:

    • gozounlimited

      Yeah BABY! It’s ACID …. Acetic Acid to be exact…..
      Misting into the sky….evaporated by my trusty evaporator….creating my personal negative ion plasma shield to knock down chemtrails …. radiation (you know the drill) …. (we are still discussing if my ionic shield helped explode our recent meteoric visitor)….unfortunately … makes sense. It’s all good for me … but maybe not so much for the mouseoles. OH WELL!

      • gozounlimited

        SO…..Today, in May, IN CALIFORNIA …. there is no chance in HELL that it’s going to rain….and yet….the chemtrail doogies (weather mod) are attempting to build a chemtrail bubble by defacating all over your FOOD! And the resultant atmosphere is sucking the moisture out of the plants …. noticed it this morning when I late watered at 10:30 am. The small plants looked like they were smoking …. very strange. I suggest if you like California wine, produce, ag commodities at a decent price (or at all), you speak up against the newest wallstreet screw job……otherwise….GOOD LUCK!


        My observations of countless plants after the heavy Sydney chemtrails since 28th November 2011 indicate by many typical signs that chemicals from chemtrails suck life giving water quickly out of plants. That would explain the sudden epidemic of partially or completely drying out trees and other plants where I live.

        read more:

        • gozounlimited

          The chemtrails also sucked the life out of my bee bush (buds) yesterday …. now the bees have disappeared….

  • privuser

    This article is missing significant data, and that is the dumping of billions of gallons of plasmas, aluminum, barium, strontium 90, blood cells and fungus, by thousands of planes over our country and the world. Notice your skies aren’t deep blue anymore, the ‘haze’ that never goes away, the white ‘stripes’ in the sky, or maybe you’ve seen the aerosol dumping but just didn’t know what it was. The dumping is causing the ‘change’, including ‘warming’. In addition, we are being poisoned, electrically bio-altered by our heinous government, and a recent study be a major research group has finally proven Morgellons is real. The difference between Morgellon’s suffers and you, is that the Morgellon’s people’s bodies are rejecting what is growing inside all of us. We need to spread this information of the atrocious assault against humankind.
    See projectcensored. org #9 on the 2012 list. Also see, type in ‘morgellons’. – then see This – – then This – – and finally This – — The ‘warming’ and ‘change’ caused by aerosol-dumping chemtrails is not just to bio-alter all of humanity but as you see in the projectcensored article, it works with HAARP to cause earthquakes and tornadoes/hurricanes, AND so that Monsanto can take over the food supply with their drought, wet, and aluminum resistant seed.
    This site needs to do some more research on this subject.

  • John Brown

    The best way to slow global warming is by sending large relectors up into space to place the north pole into semi- constant night. This would allow the ice to rebuild. The melting ice is releasing CO2 and methane which is adding to the problem more than any man made additions. If we think long term this could be used to control global temperatures for thousands of years. When the planet cools (next ice age) as it definately will, we could then use these reflectors to heat the ice caps by directing sunlight at them. Millions of years ago there were no polar ice caps and the CO2/methane content of the atmosphere was 10x what it is now. If the north pole continues to melt, releasing co2 and methane then the south pole could start to melt as well, which is much more critical. It needs to be done and it needs to be done now.