Antarctic ice reveals 14th century Earth’s atmosphere full of black carbon


As a recent study from Antarctica shows, the air on the planet in the pre-industrial era was not as clean as we might imagine. Humanity has a greater and more lasting impact on the environment than previously imagined.

It is widely believed that people began to have a great influence on the global ecosystem and ecology with the advent of the industrial age in the 18th century, but a new study indicates that the oldest were not so pristine than we would imagine.

Analysis of six ice cores taken from the southernmost continent revealed a significant increase in carbon black since the 14th century.

Long before humans in the southern hemisphere began to burn coal, therefore, pollution is most likely caused by pre-industrial fires that feed on natural biomass. Over the past 700 years, greenhouse gas emissions appear to have gradually increased, only to double.

Humanity’s Effect on the Spread of Atmospheric Carbon Black

Experts trace soot to Tasmania, New Zealand or Patagonia as researchers predict possible movement of black carbon particles.

While humanity initially settled in Tasmania and Patagonia, the Maori arrived in New Zealand at the end of the 13th century, precisely as this carbon black was beginning to emerge in data from Antarctic ice cores. . The island nation’s paleo fire records also correspond to this period, implying that the burning of land in New Zealand was responsible for the widespread soot dispersal.

Atmospheric scientist Joe McConnel of the Desert Research Institute in Nevada said, “It is extremely remarkable that mankind, at this point in history, has created such a big change in atmospheric carbon black through its soil cleaning efforts ”.

“We often assume that if we went back a few hundred years we would find a perfect pre-industrial kingdom, but our investigation shows that people have been affecting the ecology of the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Peninsula for at least the last 20 years. 700 years prior, ”explained Dr. McConnel.

Before the Industrial Revolution, we believed that human impacts on Earth’s atmosphere or climate were negligible.

Findings like this help to convey that our power to change our environment is not a purely contemporary phenomenon.

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Carbon black continues to harm the planet

New Zealand was the last habitable region on Earth where humanity lived. When the Mori arrived, the forest area was around 85%.

It is now around 25%, and research indicates that these woods have been destroyed or degraded in a few decades of human settlements. Mori appears to have intentionally burned native woods seven hundred years ago, when they had little experience with fire and perished quickly.

The carbon black from those flames traveled to Antarctica, as evidenced by the ice cores. Nonetheless, even this very modest amount of black carbon has exceeded other anthropogenic emissions in the area over the past 2,000 years, harming some of the most remote regions of our planet. Not only did soot smoke occur in Antarctica, but micronutrients from those fires are also likely to have made their way into the South Pacific, feeding phytoplankton from great distances.

“You wouldn’t expect the Mori fires in New Zealand to have a big influence on the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Peninsula compared to natural fires in areas like the Amazon, Southern Africa or the Australia “, explains expert Nathan Chellman.

Dr Chellman goes on to say that “It was very wonderful to be able to use the ice core data to illustrate the atmospheric chemistry impacts that extended across the Southern Ocean, and to relate them to the arrival of Mori and the colonization of New Zealand 700 years ago. “

The results not only provide us with a better starting point to measure current industrial activity, but also reveal the truths about New Zealand’s first settlers and when they arrived in this great southern country.

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