Biomass burning aerosols have a significant anthropogenic component with a significant direct radiative forcing. Biomass burning causes carbon dioxide emissions equal to 50% of those from fossil-fuel combustion and so are highly likely to influence future climate change. However, the current estimates for biomass burning-related aerosol radiative forcing are not well constrained. The radiative forcings of aerosols are complex because the mixing of particles with other aerosols changes their sizes and chemical composition which influences further aerosol formation or removal.
Levoglucosan is a globally pervasive molecular tracer for atmospheric biomass burning. The University of Venice has pioneered a technique for the determination of levoglucosan flux in ice cores using high-performance liquid chromatography with triple quadrupole tandem mass spectrometric detection.
Even less is known about their past climate impact of aerosols, however, levoglucosan concentrations in ice and lake cores can be used as the flux of biomass burning aerosols through time. Ice cores and neighboring lake cores provide a suite of climate information including data on temperature, accumulation, atmospheric chemistry, wind speed and aridity. Measuring levoglucosan flux together with ancilliary parameters such as rare earth elements and organic markers applies state-of-the-art technology to known climate proxies.
The radiative forcing of aerosols is one of the least known aspects of the climate system yet biomass burning aerosols have been recognized as having a significant anthropogenic component. One of the program goals is to determine the past fire variability and impact of anthropogenic aerosols using ice and lake cores collected from areas in which correspond to centres of early agriculture.