Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Study: Temperate Forests Could Worsen Global Warming

Date:
December 6, 2005
Source:
Carnegie Institution
Summary:
A new study finds that temperate forests, by absorbing sunlight, warm the air in the process and may increase global warming. According to the research from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, planting forests at certain latitudes could make the Earth warmer. Carnegie's Ken Caldeira will present the work at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco on December 7, 2005.

New climate modeling research from the Carnegie Institution and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory shows that northern temperate forests (top) may contribute to global warming, while tropical forests (bottom) can help keep global temperatures cool.
Credit: Image courtesy of Carnegie Institution

Growing a forest might sound like a good idea to combat global warming, since trees draw carbon dioxide from the air and release cool water from their leaves. But they also absorb sunlight, warming the air in the process. According to a new study from the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, planting forests at certain latitudes could make the Earth warmer. Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira will present the work at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco on December 7, 2005.

Related Articles


The researchers used complex climate modeling software to simulate changes in forest cover and then examined the effects on global climate. Their results were surprising. “We were hoping to find that growing forests in the United States would help slow global warming,” Caldeira said. “But if we are not careful, growing forests could make global warming even worse.”

The researchers found that while tropical forests help keep Earth cool by evaporating a great deal of water, northern forests tend to warm the Earth because they absorb a lot of sunlight without losing much moisture. In one simulation, the researchers covered much of the northern hemisphere (above 20 latitude) with forests and saw a jump in surface air temperature of more than 6 F. Covering the entire planet’s land mass with trees led to a more modest increase of about 2 F.

When the scientists restricted the simulation to middle latitudes such as the continental United States, the picture was not quite so clear. At first, cooling due to the uptake of carbon dioxide would offset warming from sunlight absorption. But after several decades, carbon dioxide would begin diffusing from the ocean into the atmosphere, diminishing the cooling effect and warming the Earth in the long term.

Caldeira warns against planting forests on abandoned croplands as a strategy to combat global warming, which some have recommended. But he also recognizes the importance of forests.

“I like forests. They provide good habitats for plants and animals, and tropical forests are good for climate, so we should be particularly careful to preserve them,” Caldeira commented. “But in terms of climate change, we should focus our efforts on things that can really make a difference, like improving efficiency and developing new sources of clean energy.”

The study, authored by Seran Gibbard,* Ken Caldeira, Govindasamy Bala,* Thomas J. Phillips,* and Michael Wickett,* will be published online under the title “Climate effects of global land cover change” in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on December 8, 2005.

###

*Authors marked with an asterisk are affiliated with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology was founded in 2002 on the campus of Stanford University. Its staff conducts basic research on the interactions among Earth’s ecosystems, land, atmosphere, and oceans to understand how these interactions shape the behavior of the Earth system, including its response to future change. http://globalecology.stanford.edu/DGE/CIWDGE/CIWDGE.HTML

The Carnegie Institution of Washington (www.carnegieinstitution.org) has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, nonprofit organization with six research departments throughout the U.S. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution. "Study: Temperate Forests Could Worsen Global Warming." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 December 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051206162547.htm>.
Carnegie Institution. (2005, December 6). Study: Temperate Forests Could Worsen Global Warming. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051206162547.htm
Carnegie Institution. "Study: Temperate Forests Could Worsen Global Warming." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051206162547.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

Buzz60 (Dec. 22, 2014) A new species of fish is discovered living five miles beneath the ocean surface, making it the deepest living fish on earth. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) As falling oil prices boost Americans' spending power, the U.S. government is also gaining flexibility from savings on oil. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) Surfers in Russia's biggest port city on the Pacific Ocean, Vladivostok, were enjoying the sport on Saturday despite below freezing temperatures and icy cold waters. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins