Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tree-Killing Hurricanes Could Contribute To Global Warming

Date:
May 10, 2009
Source:
Tulane University
Summary:
A first-of-its kind, long-term study of hurricane impact on U.S. trees shows that hurricane damage can diminish a forest's ability to absorb carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming, from the atmosphere. Researchers examined the impact of tropical cyclones on U.S. forests from 1851--2000 and found that changes in hurricane frequency might contribute to global warming.

A first-of-its kind, long-term study of hurricane impact on U.S. trees shows that hurricane damage can diminish a forest’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming, from the atmosphere.
Credit: iStockphoto/Raoul Vernede

A first-of-its kind, long-term study of hurricane impact on U.S. trees shows that hurricane damage can diminish a forest’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming, from the atmosphere. Tulane University researchers from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology examined the impact of tropical cyclones on U.S. forests from 1851–2000 and found that changes in hurricane frequency might contribute to global warming.

The results will be published in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, and release it when they die -- either from old age or from trauma, such as hurricanes. The annual amount of carbon dioxide a forest removes from the atmosphere is determined by the ratio of tree growth to tree mortality each year.

When trees are destroyed en masse by hurricanes, not only will there be fewer trees in the forest to absorb greenhouse gases, but forests could eventually become emitters of carbon dioxide, warming the climate. And other studies, notes Tulane ecologist Jeff Chambers, indicate that hurricanes will intensify with a warming climate.

“If landfalling hurricanes become more intense or more frequent in the future, tree mortality and damage exceeding 50 million tons of tree biomass per year would result in a net carbon loss from U.S. forest ecosystems,” says Chambers.

The study, which was led by Tulane postdoctoral research associate Hongcheng Zeng, establishes an important baseline to evaluate changes in the frequency and intensity of future landfalling hurricanes.

Using field measurements, satellite image analyses, and empirical models to evaluate forest and carbon cycle impacts, the researchers established that an average of 97 million trees have been affected each year for the past 150 years over the entire United States, resulting in a 53-million ton annual biomass loss and an average carbon release of 25 million tons. Forest impacts were primarily located in Gulf Coast areas, particularly southern Texas and Louisiana and south Florida, while significant impacts also occurred in eastern North Carolina.

Chambers compares the data from this study to a 2007 study that showed that a single storm – Hurricane Katrina -- destroyed nearly 320 million trees with a total biomass loss equivalent to 50–140 percent of the net annual U.S. carbon sink in forest trees.

“The bottom line,” says Chambers, “is that any sustained increase in hurricane tree biomass loss above 50 million tons would potentially undermine our efforts to reduce human fossil fuel carbon emissions.”

Study contributors include Tulane lab researchers Robinson Negrσn-Juαrez and David Baker; George Hurtt of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire; and Mark Powell at the Hurricane Research Division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For more information contact Tulane’s Office of Public Relations.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Tulane University. "Tree-Killing Hurricanes Could Contribute To Global Warming." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090501201353.htm>.
Tulane University. (2009, May 10). Tree-Killing Hurricanes Could Contribute To Global Warming. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090501201353.htm
Tulane University. "Tree-Killing Hurricanes Could Contribute To Global Warming." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090501201353.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pakistan's 'killer Mountain' Fails to Draw Tourists After Attack

Pakistan's 'killer Mountain' Fails to Draw Tourists After Attack

AFP (Sep. 12, 2014) — In June 2013, 10 foreign mountaineers and their guide were murdered on Nanga Parbat, an iconic peak that stands at 8,126m tall in northern Pakisan. Duration: 02:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — Two solar flares which erupted in our direction this week will arrive this weekend. The resulting solar storm will be powerful but not dangerous. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Ozone Layer Is Recovering, But It's Not All Good News

The Ozone Layer Is Recovering, But It's Not All Good News

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — The Ozone layer is recovering thickness! Hooray! But in helping its recovery, we may have also helped put more greenhouse gases out there. Hooray? Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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