The occurrence of wildfires is more frequent these days and widespread across the globe. These wildfires generally take place in areas with an abundance of plants and wilderness. For instance, the raging fires that are currently burning the Brazilian Amazon. However, such burning of biomass can be a great environment calamity, as the smoke released during Biomass Burning (BB) generates a huge amount of gases and aerosol particles. These releases not just cause serious problems for health and visibility but are hazardous for local and global climate as well. BB emission is anticipated to boost in the future as a result of a change in global climate. Microscopic organic BB particles known as Tarballs are expected to contribute approximately 30% of BB aerosol mass. Tarballs are dominant, light-absorbing aerosol particles that are present in BB smoke, understanding their impact on climate is very crucial. However, details regarding their formation and their influence on the environment are quite uncertain.
Investigators from the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Lab, New York along with support from the Atmospheric Sciences Program, planned field campaign, i.e., Biomass Burning Operational Period (BBOP) Campaign. The program includes an instrumented airplane that would measure frequent chemical changes occurring in the wildfire smoke. The author and chief investigators, Sedlacek and Kleinman approached Buseck, an ASU Regents Professor, regarding its participation in BBOP. The results were published in the paper by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings state that sphere-shaped tarball particles are formed by rapid chemical and physical changes of organic matter present in the BB smoke.
Peter Buseck and his group of researchers have developed the use of transmission electron microscopy to understand and study meteorites, minerals, and aerosol particles in a uniquely exciting way. This recent study about tarball particles and their possible influence on climate change will further show the extent and range of Buseck’s research. In brief, BB emissions, as well as tarballs, are projected to escalate over the coming decades as an outcome of climate change.