"They're basically everywhere and everything, unless you're talking about high altitudes and very high latitudes," Boyce said.
Dinosaurs walked the Earth when flowering plants evolved, and various studies have attempted to link the dinosaurs' extinction or at least their evolutionary paths to flowering plant evolution. "Those efforts are always very fuzzy, and none have gained much traction," Boyce said.
Boyce and Lee are, nevertheless, working toward simulating the climatic impact of flowering plant evolution in the prehistoric world. But simulating the Cretaceous Earth would be a complex undertaking because the planet was warmer, the continents sat in different alignments and carbon- dioxide concentrations were different.
"The world now is really very different from the world 120 million years ago," Boyce said.
Building the Supercomputer Simulation
So as a first step, Boyce and co-author with Jung-Eun Lee, Postdoctoral Scholar in Geophysical Sciences at UChicago, examined the role of flowering plants in the modern world. Lee, an atmospheric scientist, adapted the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Climate Model for the study.
Driven by more than one million lines of code, the simulations computed air motion over the entire globe at a resolution of 300 square kilometers (approximately 116 square miles). Lee ran the simulations on a supercomputer at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center in Berkeley, Calif.
"The motion of air is dependent on temperature distribution, and the temperature distribution is dependent on how heat is distributed," Lee said. "Evapo-transpiration is very important to solve this equation. That's why we have plants in the model."
The simulations showed the importance of flowering plants to water recycling. Rain falls, plants drink it up and pass most of it out of their leaves and back into the sky.
In the simulations, rep
|Contact: Steve Koppes|
University of Chicago