Sunday, July 03, 2016

Southeast Asian Fires Emitted Most Carbon Since 1997

Fire fighter in forest fire. (Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
Forest fires that blanketed Southeast Asia in thick haze last year released the greatest amount of climate-changing carbon since record blazes in 1997, producing emissions higher than in the whole of the European Union, scientists said on Tuesday.

Singapore, Malaysia, and northern Indonesia choked under a layer of toxic smog in September and October last year, caused by thousands of fires started in Indonesia to cheaply clear land for palm oil crops and for pulp and paper plantations.

The fires and resulting haze, an annual occurrence, pushed up pollution levels, caused schools to close, flights to be disrupted and people to fall sick across the region..

Last year's blazes were the worst for years with El Nino, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, causing tinder-dry conditions.

The study by scientists from the Netherlands, Britain, and Indonesia, published in the online journal Scientific Reports recently, was the first scientific report calculating greenhouse gas emissions from the fires using measurements on the ground combined with satellite observations.

"There have been some isolated studies before where people artificially set fires in the lab to try to understand the chemical characteristics of peatland fire smoke in Indonesia," said Martin Wooster, one of the scientists and a professor of earth observation science at King's College London.

"But no one had done this on natural fires, and especially not on the kind of extreme fires seen in 2015," he added.
The results showed that regional carbon dioxide emissions from the fires were 11.3 million tonnes per day in September and October 2015, more than the 28-nation EU's daily emissions of 8.9 million tonnes during the same period.

The researchers also said the emissions were worse than during the 1997 fires, considered the worst on record.

Read more at Southeast Asian Fires Emitted Most Carbon Since 1997

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