There are about 42 million square kilometers of forest on Earth, which covers almost a third of the land surface. Those wooded environments play a key role in both lessening and adding to global warming.
Click on image for full size
Image Courtesy of Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation
If a Tree Falls in the Forest, and No One Is Around to Hear It, Does Climate Change?
News story originally written on June 12, 2008
Forests cover almost a third of the land surface on Earth. A new report is out about forests and how they impact global climate. Scientists know that forests play a role in both lessening and adding to global warming, so they are now trying to learn more about how these complex processes happen.
Gordon Bonan, the atmospheric scientist who wrote the report, explained that as people become more aware of climate change, there will be a bigger interest in finding ways to decrease global warming. "Forests have been proposed as a possible solution, so it is imperative that we understand fully how forests influence climate," he added.
Forests have complex relationships with the Sun, the atmosphere, the water cycle and the carbon cycle. Forests are also impacted by human activities. These relationships both add to and subtract from the equations that affect the warming of the planet. For example, in the Amazon, tropical rainforests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This helps lessen global warming by lowering the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These forests also put moisture into the atmosphere, which cools climate and also helps to lessen global warming.
Researchers have realized that it is extremely complicated to calculate the damage that comes from a specific activity, such as cutting down a section of tropical rainforest or burning fossil fuels. Because of this, we need a better understanding of the many influences of forests on climate and how these will change as climate changes. Then we will be able to understand how forests can potentially help lessen global warming.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
The climate where you live is called regional climate. It is the average weather in a place over more than thirty years. To describe the regional climate of a place, people often tell what the temperatures...more
Earth’s climate is warming. During the 20th Century Earth’s average temperature rose 0.6° Celsius (1.1°F). Scientists are finding that the change in temperature has been causing other aspects of our planet...more
Tropical rainforests are home to thousands of species of animals, plants, fungi and microbes. Scientists suspect that there are many species living in rainforests have not yet been found or described....more
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a kind of gas. There isn't that much carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere, but it is still very important. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. That means it helps trap heat coming...more
Even though only a tiny amount of the gases in Earth’s atmosphere are greenhouse gases, they have a huge effect on climate. There are several different types of greenhouse gases. The major ones are carbon...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. "The data will help give us a better road map to what a future...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core, and makes up about 84 percent of the Earth's volume. The mantle is made up of many distinct portions or...more