(10-31) 17:00 PDT San Diego - --
The fires that roared through Southern California last week spewed the same amount of greenhouse gases as what is produced in about one week from the state's burning of fossil fuels, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research report.
The preliminary data by NCAR and the University of Colorado at Boulder show that the fires emitted 7.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide between October 19 and 26. That's equivalent to 25 percent of the monthly emissions from all fossil fuel burning throughout California, according to the report.
The study used satellite observations and a computer model to determine emissions based on amount of vegetation that burned.
Large fires in western and southeastern states can pump as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in a few weeks as a state's entire motor vehicle traffic in a year, according to the paper, which will be published online Thursday in the journal "Carbon Balance and Management."
The study estimates that fires in the contiguous United States and Alaska release about 290 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent of 4 to 6 percent of the nation's total carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning.
A copy of the article will be posted Thursday at www.cbmjournal.com.
E-mail Peter Fimrite at email@example.com