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.

Related Articles


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 January 31, 2015 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 January 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Rare Clouds Fill Grand Canyon

Raw: Rare Clouds Fill Grand Canyon

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) For the second time in two months, a rare weather phenomenon filled the Grand Canyon with thick clouds just below the rim on Wednesday. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a bipartisan bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
"Cloud Inversion" In Grand Canyon

"Cloud Inversion" In Grand Canyon

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 29, 2015) Time lapse video captures a blanket of clouds amassing in the Grand Canyon -- the result of a rare meteorological process called "cloud inversion." Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Biofuels aren&apos;t the best alternative to fossil fuels, according to a new report. In fact, they&apos;re quite a bad one. 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:

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