Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sugarcane cools climate, study finds

Date:
April 18, 2011
Source:
Carnegie Institution
Summary:
Brazilians are world leaders in using biofuels. About a quarter of their automobile fuel consumption comes from sugarcane, which significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Now scientists have found that sugarcane has a double benefit. Expansion of the crop in areas previously occupied by other crops cools the local climate by reflecting sunlight back into space and by lowering the air temperature as the plants "exhale" cooler water.

Sugar cane plantation.
Credit: Elder Salles / Fotolia

Brazilians are world leaders in using biofuels for gasoline. About a quarter of their automobile fuel consumption comes from sugarcane, which significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions that otherwise would be emitted from using gasoline. Now scientists from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology have found that sugarcane has a double benefit. Expansion of the crop in areas previously occupied by other Brazilian crops cools the local climate. It does so by reflecting sunlight back into space and by lowering the temperature of the surrounding air as the plants "exhale" cooler water.

The study is published in the 2nd issue of Nature Climate Change, posted on-line April 17.

The research team, led by Carnegie's Scott Loarie, is the first to quantify the direct effects on the climate from sugarcane expansion in areas of existing crop and pastureland of the cerrado, in central Brazil.

The researchers used data from hundreds of satellite images over 733,000 square miles -- an area larger than the state of Alaska. They measured temperature, reflectivity (also called albedo), and evapotranspiration -- the water loss from the soil and from plants as they exhale water vapor.

As Loarie explained: "We found that shifting from natural vegetation to crops or pasture results in local warming because the plants give off less beneficial water. But the bamboo-like sugarcane is more reflective and gives off more water -- much like the natural vegetation. It's a potential win-win for the climate -- using sugarcane to power vehicles reduces carbon emissions, while growing it lowers the local air temperature."

The scientists found that converting from natural vegetation to crop/pasture on average warmed the cerrado by 2.79 F (1.55 C), but that subsequent conversion to sugarcane, on average, cooled the surrounding air by 1.67 F (0.93C).

The researchers emphasize that the beneficial effects are contingent on the fact sugarcane is grown on areas previously occupied by crops or pastureland, and not in areas converted from natural vegetation. It is also important that other crops and pastureland do not move to natural vegetation areas, which would contribute to deforestation.

So far most of the thinking about ecosystem effects on climate considers only impacts from greenhouse gas emissions. But according to coauthor Greg Asner, "It's becoming increasingly clear that direct climate effects on local climate from land-use decisions constitute significant impacts that need to be considered core elements of human-caused climate change."

*Co-authors on the study are David Lobell of the Program for Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, Gregory Asner and Christopher Field of Carnegie's Department of Global Ecology, and Qiaozhen Mu of the University of Montana. The work was made possible through the support of the Stanford University Global Climate and Energy Project.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Scott R. Loarie, David B. Lobell, Gregory P. Asner, Qiaozhen Mu, Christopher B. Field. Direct impacts on local climate of sugar-cane expansion in Brazil. Nature Climate Change, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1067

Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution. "Sugarcane cools climate, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110417185345.htm>.
Carnegie Institution. (2011, April 18). Sugarcane cools climate, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110417185345.htm
Carnegie Institution. "Sugarcane cools climate, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110417185345.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Suni, a rare northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, died Friday. This, as many media have pointed out, leaves people fearing extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beijing Marathon Runners Brave Hazardous Air Pollution

Beijing Marathon Runners Brave Hazardous Air Pollution

AFP (Oct. 19, 2014) Tens of thousands of runners battled thick smog at the Beijing Marathon on Sunday, with some donning masks as the levels of PM2.5 small pollutant particles soared to 16 times the maximum recommended level. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
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