Just as vegetables are essential to balancing the human diet, the inclusion of vegetation may be equally essential to balancing Earth’s climate models.
Satellite image of vegetation types in Africa
Scientists at MIT who were trying to create accurate models of climate change in the southern portion of the Sahara desert found that including a realistic component of vegetation growth and decay was absolutely essential. Without including the vegetation as a variable (rather than a fixed parameter), the models were not able to show the region’s transformation from a fertile expanse of vegetation 6,000 years ago to an arid stretch of mostly sand and mountains today.
“Vegetation is such an important component of the climate system that in this model, including the vegetation was the only way to explain what happened in the past,” said Elfatih Eltahir, an author of the paper describing the research, which appeared in the Jan. 16 issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Denise Brehm | MIT News Office
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