Just as water helps moderate temperatures of nearby land, large tracts of forests can also help lessen the extremes of land in the area, according to research published in the Jan. 20 issue Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmosphere.
"In the case of large lakes, the water can store a lot of heat without much increase in temperature and release of lot of heat without much decrease in temperature," said lead author Lianhong Gu of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Environmental Sciences Division.
Forests play similar roles because the "specific heat capacity" of biomass is several times higher than that of soil and air. Specific heat capacity measures the amount of heat stored or released by a unit of mass for one degree change in temperature.
Gu and researchers at the University of Missouri and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted this study in Missouri using a mixture of observational and modeling approaches. Gu believes the finding has important implications for predicting climate change, at least at local and regional scales.
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