Although wildfires change the climate, changes in the climate also produce wildfires. There is a correlation between drought and wildfire danger. Where there is drought, the chances of wildfires increase substantially. Factors such as excessive heat and months of prolonged dryness – along with subsequent lightening strikes are just one of the ways that natural disaster strike. The smoke from wildfires affects the climate in a variety of ways, too.
Wildfire smoke creates brown carbon, black carbon, and carbon dioxide that invade the atmosphere. The brown carbon, or brown smoke, is produced by incomplete combustion as wildfires’ smolder. Black carbon smoke is seen as plumes above the brown carbon, produced from burning fossil fuels. Brown and black carbon, along with carbon dioxide change the atmosphere and the climate locally and continue to travel with the jet stream to change the climate on a global scale.
Brown carbon smoke masks natural sunlight and emits toxins. Animals, plants and humans experience reduced natural sunlight below the smoke. During the brown carbon phase of wildfire smoke, the environment adjacent to the fires becomes warmer than if no smoke were present. The brown carbon penetrates both the lower atmosphere and the upper atmosphere, which is 7 miles above the earth’s surface. Surprisingly, the brown carbon in the upper atmosphere is what changes the planetary solar balance.