The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) has awarded more than $6.6 million in grants to eight universities in support of what it calls black carbon research. Black carbon is the sooty black material emitted from diesel-powered engines and vehicles, as well as industries that use brick kilns and coke ovens, traditional stoves, and other sources that burn fossil fuels or biomass.
Black carbon – including diesel powered vehicle emissions – can affect the climate in the near term, and as with other types of fine particles, can cause serious health effects such as cardiovascular and respiratory ailments. Fine particles have also been strongly linked to lung cancer.
Unlike greenhouse gases, which remain in the atmosphere for decades or centuries, it’s claimed that black carbon particles only stay in the atmosphere for days or possibly weeks. The EPA concludes that reducing black carbon emissions could have a positive effect on the climate in a relatively short period of time as opposed to the centuries of CO2 emissions behind global warming.
“This research on black carbon will provide valuable information about the impact of black carbon on climate change,” says William Sanders, director of EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. “An increased understanding of the impact black carbon has on climate change will better protect people and the environment.”
EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (dubbed STAR in acronym speak) program awarded nine grants to support research to study the role and effects of black carbon. The research will analyze the impacts of black carbon on air and water quality, investigate the behavior of black carbon aerosols in the atmosphere, and develop computer models to look at black carbon deposits on snow. Black carbon deposited on snow and ice hastens melting by directly absorbing sunlight and by darkening the surface, which reduces the amount of light reflected back to space. The research also examines the aging of black carbon in the atmosphere.
Award recipients include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Carnegie Mellon University; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Riverside; University of Iowa; University of Washington; University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Rutgers University.
More information on the black carbon research projects: www.epa.gov/ncer/blackcarbon