It turns out that Australia’s scorching bushfire season last summer blew enough smoke into the atmosphere to create a small but still noticeable global cooling event.
When fires got so bad that thunderclouds started to form from the smoke, these so-called pyrocumulonimbus clouds actually injected smoke into the upper layers of the atmosphere which then circled the globe and acted like a gigantic sunshade, The Washington Post reports.
“The Australian wildfires have basically revolutionised our understanding of the climate-altering potential of wildfires through stratospheric feedbacks,” Sergey Khaykin, a member of the team of French, Canadian and British researchers who recently published a paper on the phenomenon, said.
The bushfire smoke blocked about as much sunlight as a medium-sized volcano eruption, which is yet another serious impact to add to the list of things the fire season caused.
While the cooling wasn’t so bad compared to people’s homes being destroyed by the bushfires and animals being engulfed in flames, the worst part about this particular bit of research is that the worst is probably still yet to come.
“What is going to happen if we have stronger wildfires and a strong volcanic eruption at the same time?” Khaykin added.
“It’s quite scary because we realise we know quite little.”
Although the largest of the Aussie smoke vortexes disappeared back in April, leftover smoke from the event is still visible from satellites, according to the Post.
The severity and longevity of the smoke has also given credence to the idea of a nuclear winter which is just… great.
While it’s unlikely that some messy bitch with the nuclear launch codes will let loose anytime soon, the Aussie bushfires more or less demonstrated the same kind of chilling weather models that one might expect after an all-out nuclear war.
But don’t go treating this cooling as good news, because it’s not as if the bushfires are going to miraculously reverse global warming anytime soon.
Even if you ignored all the tragedy caused on the ground, the cooling was likely only a small fraction of a degree.