Mendocino-Complex Fire In Northern California Grows To Largest Fire In State's History

Is wildfire soot leaving a mark on the world’s oceans?

When clouds of smoke and ash billow out over the ocean, stretching away from the wildfires that are their source, they might not just affect the air quality. Rather, the wildfire soot could leave a chemical mark on the waters below.

That’s the idea behind new research by Aron Stubbins, associate professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern. The study was led by a former student of Stubbins, Sasha Wagner, who was also a postdoctoral researcher at Northeastern at the time.

As fires burn forests, the carbon that is stored in trees’ woody bodies is largely released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. But that’s not the only form a tree’s carbon can take when it is burned. A tree also leaves behind its charred remains, which contain a form of the element aptly named “black carbon.”

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Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Marine and Environmental Sciences