While climate may be impacted by carbon dioxide emissions, aerosols and other factors, a new study offers further evidence land surface changes may also play a significant role.
Changes in Vegetation across the United States
These images show the (a) dominant vegetation type and (b) fractional areal coverage (%) of each grid cell by the dominant vegetation for the 1700, 1910, and 1990 vegetation cases.
The maps labeled 1700 are estimates of potential vegetation for the country under current climate conditions (i.e., without land use). Maps labeled 1910 and 1990 are estimates of land cover for those periods that include the effects of land-use history up to and including those years respectively.
These figures illustrate some of the large changes to the land cover patterns that are estimated to have occurred across the United States as the result of land-use activities. It can be seen that between 1700 and 1910, much of the U.S. was converted from forests to croplands. By 1910, forest cover over the United States was at or near its lowest point in 300 years. Since 1910, agriculture has substantially intensified in the central and western U.S., but decreased in the east. By 1990, croplands covered about 24 percent of the total land area, with farms occupying more than 90 percent of some regions in Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Forest cover has steadily increased, to near 40 percent of the total land area in 1990. CREDIT: Somnath Baidya Roy, Princeton University
The study of summer climate in the United States reported changes in land cover, particularly vegetation, have impacted regional temperatures and precipitation. The study used data and computer models from NASA and other organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
"The largest human impacts on nature have occurred since the Industrial Revolution," said Somnath Baidya Roy, a research scientist at Princeton University, N.J. Roy is lead author of the study published in a recent issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. Co-authors included George Hurtt, University of New Hampshire; Christopher Weaver, Rutgers University; and Stephen Pacala also from of Princeton.
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