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'Greener' climate prediction shows plants slow warming
Date:12/7/2010

n experimental studies and can ultimately lead to increased leaf growth. The ability to increase leaf growth due to changes in photosynthetic activity was also included in the model. The authors postulate that the greater leaf growth would increase evapotranspiration on a global scale and create an additional cooling effect.

"This is what is completely new," said Bounoua, referring to the incorporation of down-regulation and changed leaf growth into the model. "What we did is improve plants' physiological response in the model by including down-regulation. The end result is a stronger feedback than previously thought."

The modeling approach also investigated how stimulation of plant growth in a world with doubled carbon dioxide levels would be fueled by warmer temperatures, increased precipitation in some regions and plants' more efficient use of water due to carbon dioxide being more readily available in the atmosphere. Previous climate models have included these aspects but not down-regulation. The models without down-regulation projected little to no cooling from vegetative growth.

Scientists agree that in a world where carbon dioxide has doubled a standard basis for many global warming modeling simulations temperature would increase from 2 to 4.5 degrees C (3.5 to 8.0 F). (The model used in this study found warming without incorporating the plant feedback on the low end of this range.) The uncertainty in that range is mostly due to uncertainty about "feedbacks" how different aspects of the Earth system will react to a warming world, and then how those changes will either amplify (positive feedback) or dampen (negative feedback) the overall warming.

An example of a positive feedback would be if warming temperatures caused forests to grow in the place of Arctic tundra. The darker surface of a forest canopy would absorb more solar radiation than the snowy tundra, which reflects more solar radiation. The greater absorption wo
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Contact: Patrick Lynch
Patrick.lynch@nasa.gov
301-352-4663
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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