Boston. May 2021. Government scientists at places like the National Interagency Fire center like to claim that forest fires have increased in recent years due to human use of fossil fuels. But new research by Pengfei Liu, a fellow at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has found that the earth was far more fiery and smoky prior to the Industrial Era.
Liu’s team studied ice core samples in Antarctica, where the ice trapped smoke particles emitted from fires in Australia, Africa and South America. Ice core scientists and co-authors of the study, Joseph McConnell and Nathan Chellman from the Desert Research Institute in Nevada, measured soot, a key component of smoke, deposited in an array of 14 ice cores from across the continent.
“While most studies have assumed less fire took place in the preindustrial era, the ice cores suggested a much fierier past, at least in the Southern Hemisphere,” said Loretta Mickley, Senior Research Fellow in Chemistry-Climate Interactions at SEAS and senior author of the paper.