This finding contrasts with the expectation that plants and soils will absorb carbon dioxide and is important because that additional carbon release from land surface could be a potent positive feedback that exacerbates climate warming.
The study was published today in a Journal of Climate paper titled, "Carbon cycle uncertainty increases climate change risks and mitigation challenges." The full text is available at http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00089.1.
"We have been counting on plants and soils to soak up and store much of the carbon we're releasing when we burn fossil fuels," Paul Higgins, a study co-author and associate director of the AMS Policy Program, said. "However, our results suggest the opposite possibility. Plants and soils could react to warming by releasing additional carbon dioxide, increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and leading to even more climate warming."
The research team used a computer model of Earth's land surface to examine how carbon storage might react to a warmer planet with higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. The experimental design helps quantify the possible range in future terrestrial carbon storage.
Results indicated that the potential range of outcomes is vast and includes the possibility that plant and soil responses to human-caused warming could trigger a large additional release of carbon. If that outcome is realized, a given level of human emissions could result in much larger climate changes than scientists currently anticipate. It would also mean that greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could be required to ensure carbon dioxide concentrations remain at what might be considered safe levels for the climate system.
These findings could pose additional challenges for climate change risk management. Recognizing such challenges will afford decision makers a greater chance of managing the risks of climate change more effectively.
Dr. Higgins works on climate change and its causes, consequences, and potential solutions. His scientific research examines the two-way interaction between the atmosphere and the land-surface, which helps quantify responses and feedbacks to climate change. Dr. Higgins's policy analysis helps characterize climate risks and identify potential solutions. He also works to inform policy makers, members of the media, and the general public about climate science and climate policy.
Dr. John Harte, the study's other co-author, is a professor of energy and resources and of environmental science, policy and management at University of California, Berkeley. His research interests include climate-ecosystem interactions, theoretical ecology and environmental policy.
About the AMS Policy Program
Societal choices have the greatest chance to benefit the public when grounded in knowledge and understanding. The American Meteorological Society Policy Program makes the Earth science community's considerable knowledge base available and useful to the policy process by: 1) expanding scientists' capacity to engage the policy process, 2) keeping government decision makers aware of scientific advances, 3) enabling meaningful collaborations between scientists and decision makers, 4) conducting policy research and analysis, and 5) communicating our vision and results. To learn more, visit www.ametsoc.org/atmospolicy.
The unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs
14.11.2018 | Uppsala University
Earth's magnetic field measured using artificial stars at 90 kilometers altitude
14.11.2018 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences
14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
14.11.2018 | Life Sciences