Planting trees across the United States and Europe to absorb some of the carbon dioxide emitted by the burning of fossil fuels may just outweigh the positive effects of sequestering that CO².
New climate modeling research from LLNL and the Carnegie Institution shows that northern temperate forests (top) may contribute to global warming, while tropical forests (bottom) can help keep global temperatures cool.
Panel a: Direct warming associated with global forest cover. (These are results from a forest covered world minus the results for bare ground). Forests produce over 10°C (18°F) of warming in parts of the northern hemisphere due primarily to increased absorption of solar radiation. Forests produce several degrees of cooling in tropical areas, primarily due to increased evapotranspiration (evaporation).
Panel b:Direct warming associated with forest cover between between 20°N and 50°N. (These are results from actual vegetation with added forests in the mid-latitudes minus the results for bare ground.) Mid-latitude forests can produce warming locally of up to 6°C (10°F).
Panel c: Increase in fractional absorption of solar radiation at the ground for forests relative to bare ground.
New climate modeling research from LLNL and the Carnegie Institution shows that northern temperate forests (top) may contribute to global warming, while tropical forests (bottom) can help keep global temperatures cool. (Click here to download a high-resolution image.)
In theory, growing a forest may sound like a good idea to fight global warming, but in temperate regions, such as the United States, those trees also would soak up sunlight, causing the earth’s surface to warm regionally by up to 8 degrees Fahrenheit.
Forests affect climate in three different ways: they absorb the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, and help to keep the planet cool; they evaporate water to the atmosphere, which also helps keep the planet cool; and they are dark and absorb a lot of sunlight, warming the Earth.
Anne Stark | EurekAlert!
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