The prospect of Siberian winters sending a chill down people's spines may not hold true for long given the threat posed to them by global warming according to experts at the University of Leicester.
The Climate and Land Surface Systems Interaction Centre at the University of Leicester is hosting an international scientific Symposium on "Environmental change in Siberia -- Insights from Earth Observation and modelling" from 18-20 September 2006.
Professor Heiko Balzter, who has studied satellite images of Siberia for the past eight years, said: "Siberia is a global hotspot in the climate system. Because the Siberian ecosystems are largely temperature controlled the region is strongly affected by global warming. Large amounts of greenhouse gases are currently locked in the permafrost and in organic soils, and if released could accelerate the greenhouse effect."
Professor Balzter, of the Department of Geography, said the Symposium would bring together Russian, British and European scientists from different disciplines to develop new information systems for scientists and policy makers.
"The participants want to assess the magnitude and remaining uncertainties of environmental change in Siberia. The Siberian land mass has a profound impact on the climate in the Northern Hemisphere, and large-scale changes like the melting of permafrost or an increase in extreme forest fire years could potentially accelerate global climate change."
At the University of Leicester around 30 participating scientists from the UK, Russia, Austria, France, Italy and Germany will present new findings on the rapid environmental changes occurring in Siberia. They will use new satellite data of the vast forest tracts of Siberia in conjunction with Earth System models to provide evidence of the state of the environment.
On the agenda are:
* new satellite remote sensing methods for mapping devastating forest fires and their impact on ecosystems,
* the damage to trees by Siberian moth outbreaks,
* changes in the snow and water cycle,
* expected shifts in the tree species composition as a result of climate change,
* the development of new ways of Greenhouse Gas Accounting to support international agreements like the Kyoto protocol
* Geographical Information Systems, satellite data and computer models.
Professor Balzter added:
"Many of the scientists have worked together in previous European funded projects, like the SIBERIA project, which has mapped about 10 million hectares of forest at an unprecedented 50 m spatial resolution, and the SIBERIA-2 project, which has created the first full greenhouse gas accounting scheme of the terrestrial biosphere from a combined satellite remote sensing and vegetation modelling approach.
"The symposium will comprise of 22 talks and 6 poster presentations, and conclude with discussion of the main scientific questions that need addressing and how this international research can be funded in the future in a joined up way."
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