Scientists Unpack the Influence of Black Carbon Aerosols on Rainfall in Northeast India

Environmental News from India:

  • Black carbon, an air pollutant, is also a short-lived contributor to global warming. It is second only to carbon dioxide. It is formed by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass and by natural sources.
  • A recent modeling study shows that increasing black carbon emissions leads to a decrease in low-intensity rainfall in the pre-monsoon season in northeast India while pushing up severe rain.
  • Long-term trends show that while pre-monsoon rainfall is declining, aerosol in this region is increasing. Fossil fuel and biomass burning are major sources of black carbon in the northeast. Some levels of black carbon from the Indo Gangetic Plains also make their way to northeast India.

What tastes better – his mother’s recipe for a chicken gravy dish cooked on a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder or on an open wood fire? “Of course, the slow-cooked chicken on an open wood fire,” Shahjahan is quick to put any doubts to rest.

Shahjahan, a farmer who doubles up as a computer technician in Tezpur on the banks of the Brahmaputra river in Assam, a river basin state, observes that most households in his village have an LPG cylinder but burning wood (biomass) is the preferred cooking method.

Shahjahan and his neighbors’ experiences with the clean fuel transition – stacking up LPG against biomass (khori) use – are also reflected in the fifth National Family Health Survey data that shows that despite having LPG connections, many don’t use it for cooking. “LPG is used when we need to quickly serve tea, heat water for bath or warm milk. It takes more time to start the biomass fire, but the food is tastier,” notes Shahjahan.

The hike in LPG costs is another deterrent. “Three to four years ago we bought the LPG cylinder at Rs. 550, now the cost is around Rs. 1000. In contrast, the khori (discarded bamboo poles used to support crop growth) we use is easily available on our farms,” the 25-year-old adds, pointing to the shed to stockpile khori abutting fields of gourd and paddy. He says they have started cooking outdoors in recent years to eliminate the fumes that choke up their indoor environment and harm health.

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Source: Mongabay

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