Liz Wiggins’ paper on the radiocarbon content of aerosols from Indonesian fires was published yesterday in PNAS. Colleagues from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology collected aerosol samples from the NUS campus in downtown Singapore during 2014 -2016 and sent them to Liz at UCI for chemical and radiocarbon analysis. The observations show that the smoke clouds reaching Singapore during the El Nino-induced drought of fall 2015 had a mean age of 800 years, confirming in a novel way that almost all the fire emissions originated from peat. Several recent fire inventories and budget estimates had concluded that other non-peat sources may have been important, but our work indicates that these sources were likely very small.
Much of the fire emissions in the region originates from trees that were alive during the Middle Ages, when Marco Polo was traveling by Singapore on his way back to Europe.
Liz is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at NASA Langley, graduating with her Ph.D. from UCI in August 2018.