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New study shows how climate change could affect entire forest ecosystems
Date:11/28/2012

bone. While predictions about how rainfall will change in California over the next 50 years are uncertain, fog and low-stratus clouds might decline as sea-surface temperatures warm. Like the relict Bishop pines on Santa Cruz Island, and the majestic coastal Redwood forests in Northern California, forests remove and store carbon from the atmosphere, and thus are important for understanding greenhouse gas concentrations in the future. These coastal forests are also highly valued for their aesthetic and recreation qualities.

Fog is often present in coastal California during May through August. It occurs when the land warms in the spring and summer, and moist ocean air is pulled over cold, upwelling coastal waters. This moist air then condenses under a stable atmospheric inversion layer, creating low clouds or fog banks.

"The finding that summer fog strongly impacts carbon cycling highlights the need for improved understanding of whether we should expect coastal summer cloud behavior to change in a warmer world," said second author A. Park Williams, a former graduate student in UCSB's Geography Department, now at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "A change in summer fogginess could produce temperature, moisture, and carbon feedbacks in coastal ecosystems that easily swamp out the effects expected from increased greenhouse gases alone," said Williams.

The carbon cycle involves the movement of billions of tons of carbon between the oceans, lands, and atmosphere every year. Increased amounts of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, are injected into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

The scientists received help from NASA and NOAA in collecting information. "We used satellite data to map the spatial distribution of cloud cover across the western portion of Santa Cruz Island," said senior author Christopher J. Still, formerly an associate professor at UC Santa Barbara, now at Oregon State University. "We had some evidence
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Contact: Gail Gallessich
gail.g@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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