Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plants moderate climate warming

29.04.2013
As temperatures warm, plants release gases that help form clouds and cool the atmosphere, according to research from IIASA and the University of Helsinki.
The new study, published in Nature Geoscience, identified a negative feedback loop in which higher temperatures lead to an increase in concentrations of natural aerosols that have a cooling effect on the atmosphere.

"Plants, by reacting to changes in temperature, also moderate these changes," says IIASA and University of Helsinki researcher Pauli Paasonen, who led the study.

Scientists had known that some aerosols – particles that float in the atmosphere – cool the climate as they reflect sunlight and form cloud droplets, which reflect sunlight efficiently. Aerosol particles come from many sources, including human emissions. But the effect of so-called biogenic aerosol – particulate matter that originates from plants – had been less well understood. Plants release gases that, after atmospheric oxidation, tend to stick to aerosol particles, growing them into the larger-sized particles that reflect sunlight and also serve as the basis for cloud droplets. The new study showed that as temperatures warm and plants consequently release more of these gases, the concentrations of particles active in cloud formation increase.

"Everyone knows the scent of the forest," says Ari Asmi, University of Helsinki researcher who also worked on the study. "That scent is made up of these gases." While previous research had predicted the feedback effect, until now nobody had been able to prove its existence except for case studies limited to single sites and short time periods. The new study showed that the effect occurs over the long-term in continental size scales.

The effect of enhanced plant gas emissions on climate is small on a global scale – only countering approximately 1 percent of climate warming, the study suggested. "This does not save us from climate warming," says Paasonen. However, he says, "Aerosol effects on climate are one of the main uncertainties in climate models. Understanding this mechanism could help us reduce those uncertainties and make the models better."

The study also showed that the effect was much larger on a regional scale, counteracting possibly up to 30% of warming in more rural, forested areas where anthropogenic emissions of aerosols were much lower in comparison to the natural aerosols. That means that especially in places like Finland, Siberia, and Canada this feedback loop may reduce warming substantially.

The researchers collected data at 11 different sites around the world, measuring the concentrations of aerosol particles in the atmosphere, along with the concentrations of plant gases, the temperature, and reanalysis estimates for the height of the boundary layer, which turned out to be a key variable. The boundary layer refers to the layer of air closest to the Earth, in which gases and particles mix effectively. The height of that layer changes with weather. Paasonen says, "One of the reasons that this phenomenon was not discovered earlier was because these estimates for boundary layer height are very difficult to do. Only recently have the reanalysis estimates been improved to where they can be taken as representative of reality."

Reference

Paasonen, P., et. al. 2013. Evidence for negative climate feedback: warming increases aerosol number concentrations. Nature Geoscience doi: 10.1038/NGEO1800

For more information please contact:

Pauli Paasonen
IIASA Guest Research Scholar
Mitigation of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases
Tel: +43 2236 807 498
Mob: +43 699 17 253 365
paasonen@iiasa.ac.at
Ari Asmi
Research Coordinator
University of Helsinki, Department of Physics, Division of Atmospheric Sciences
Tel: +358 9 191 50181
Mob: +358 40 770 9729
ari.asmi@helsinki.fi
Markku Kulmala
Academy professor
University of Helsinki, Department of Physics, Division of Atmospheric Sciences
Tel: + 358 9 191 50756
Mob: +358 40 596 2311
markku.kulmala@helsinki.fi
Katherine Leitzell
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 316
Mob: +43 676 83 807 316
leitzell@iiasa.ac.at
About IIASA:
IIASA is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. http://www.iiasa.ac.at

Katherine Leitzell | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iiasa.ac.at

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact
20.11.2017 | Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

nachricht Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar
20.11.2017 | University of Edinburgh

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>