Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Killer freeze of '07 illustrates paradoxes of warming climate

A destructive spring freeze that chilled the eastern United States almost a year ago illustrates the threat a warming climate poses to plants and crops, according to a paper just published in the journal BioScience. The study was led by a team from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The "Easter freeze" of April 5-9, 2007, blew in on an ill wind. Plants had been sending out young and tender sprouts two to three weeks earlier than normal during an unusually warm March. Plant ecologists, as well as farmers and gardeners, took note of the particularly harsh turn of the weather in early April.

"The warm weather was as much a culprit for the damage as the cold," said lead author Lianhong Gu of ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division.

"We see the paradox in that mild winters and warm, early springs make the plants particularly vulnerable to late-season frosts," Gu said. Gu's team observed satellite images and field data to establish the extent of the 2007 spring freeze. They also assessed the long-term and short-term effects on the terrestrial carbon cycle with respect to plant activity in normal years. Short-term effects were "profound," Gu said.

"In the period just after the freeze we saw a large reduction in the fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation, which is a sensitive indicator of plant growth," he said. "We also noted that the regrowth in the following weeks and months did not result in the levels of plant development in previous years."

Gu's team hypothesized that the freeze could have long-term effects on forest carbon uptake because of damage the cold did to the prematurely developed plant tissues, which could affect future growing seasons. The associated carbon and nutrient losses may affect growth in future years.

Beyond devastated horticultural crops, the study noted that some species suffered more than others. Yellow poplar trees were "surprisingly" slow to put out flushes of new leaves, and white oaks were particularly hard hit with freeze damage to both new leaves and flowers. On the other hand, trees located along shorelines--where the water stores heat--and underneath dense canopies seemed to be protected from the cold.

Compounding the stress on plants, as noted in the International Panel on Climate Change's fourth assessment report, is the prospect of prolonged droughts, which also occurred in the region last summer.

"This freeze should not be viewed as an isolated event; rather, it represents a realistic climate change scenario that has long concerned plant ecologists," Gu said.

Authors on the paper include Gu, Paul Hanson, Dale Kaiser, Mac Post and Bai Yang of ORNL; Ramakrishna Nemani of NASA's Ames Research Center; Stephen G. Pallardy of the University of Missouri at Columbia, and Tilden Meyers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Air Resources Laboratory in Oak Ridge. The DOE Office of Science's Biological and Environmental Research program funded the studies.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.

Bill Cabage | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

24.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>