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Climate Effects Of Wildfire Clouds Remains Hazy

Published: Thursday, September 16, 2021 - 2:00pm
Updated: Thursday, September 16, 2021 - 2:48pm
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Wildfires are on the rise and expected to increase further due to climate change. But the overall climate effects of clouds caused by wildfires remains hazy. 

Research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters further muddies the waters.

Wildfires send aloft great plumes of large, water-attracting aerosol particles. That sounds like a recipe for rainfall. But repeated sampling of small cumulus clouds finds they contain five times as many droplets as normal clouds, at one-half the size.

That obscures wildfires' climate impacts.

Smaller droplets produce less rain but, in multitudes, could reflect more sunlight, causing cooling. Then again, carbon soot could warm its environs and cause clouds to burn off. Moreover, different cloud types likely behave differently.

Barring more research, one finding remains clear: Summertime precipitation in the West has fallen in recent decades. 

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