U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Climate Mitigation from Vegetation Biophysical Feedbacks during the Past Three Decades
Published: May 22, 2017
Posted: January 26, 2018

Expanded vegetation growth mitigates recent climate warming through increased evapotranspiration.

The Science
Remote sensing observations of vegetation greenness are combined with near-surface air temperature observations over land and ocean and coupled climate system simulations (including new simulations with the ACME model) to describe the influence of changing Leaf Area Index (LAI) on global-scale air temperatures. Greening of Earth causes a reduction in near-surface air temperature through increased evapotranspiration and decreased shortwave transmissivity.

The Impact
Our study quantifies the response of near-surface air temperature to the slow but persistent increase in vegetation LAI that has been observed over recent decades. The ecosystem-climate system feedbacks examined in this study benefit society by mitigating some of the temperature increase associated with anthropogenic climate change.

Summary
Several coupled Earth system models, including DOE’s ACME v0, were used to perform simulations of coupled climate system response when forced with observed global space and time variation of leaf area index, for the historical period 1982-2011. While near-surface air temperatures have been observed to rise over this period, our modeling suggests that increases in vegetation greenness (quantified as LAI) tended to suppress the increase in temperature. This overall suppression of temperature rise is a net effect from negative feedbacks associated with increased evapotranspiration and reduced shortwave transmissivity, partly offset by positive feedbacks associated with increased thermal emissivity of the atmosphere and reduced land surface albedos.

The overall effect of increased LAI on temperature is estimated as a 0.09 (+/- 0.02) °C suppression of global-scale warming over land for the period 1982-2011, or a mitigation of about 12% of the observed warming over land for the past 30 years.

Contacts (BER PM)
Dorothy Koch
Earth System Modeling Program
Dorothy.Koch@science.doe.gov

Renu Joseph
Regional & Global Climate Modeling
Renu.Joseph@science.doe.gov

(PI Contact)
Xiaoying Shi
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Funding
The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research supported this research as part of the Accelerated Climate Modeling for Energy (ACME) and Biogeochemistry-Climate Feedbacks Scientific Focus Area: Quantifying Feedbacks and Uncertainties of Biogeochemical Processes projects of the Earth System Modeling (ESM) and Regional & Global Climate Modeling (RGCM) programs.

Publication
Zeng, Z., S. Piao, L. Li, L. Zhou et al. "Climate Mitigation from Vegetation Biophysical Feedbacks during the Past Three Decades." Nature Climate Change 7, 432-436 (2017). [DOI:10.1038/NCLIMATE3299]
(Reference link)

Related Links
BER Highlight: Climate Mitigation from Vegetation Biophysical Feedbacks during the Past Three Decades

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)