Melting snow could partly help climate change

snowy boreal forests

There are many variables that affect both global warming and climate change. Sometimes there are phenomena that contribute to an increase in negative effects, but on other occasions, events occur that contribute to its improvement.

Although rising temperatures caused by global warming cause seasonal snow melt before spring, this allows boreal forests can absorb more carbon dioxide of the atmosphere. How does this happen?

Snow melt

forests that absorb more CO2

Global warming is mainly due to the absorption of heat by the carbon dioxide emitted by human actions. Burning oil, coal and natural gas they generate greenhouse gas emissions that increase the temperature of the planet, and this causes the snow to melt before its time. As the world's climate changes, there are accelerations of some processes such as the melting of the polar ice caps, rising sea levels and an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events.

To know the exact concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a balance must be made between what is emitted and absorbed by plants in the process of photosynthesis and other sinks of CO2 in the oceans.

LBoreal forests are known as important sinks for CO2, but they depend entirely on the amount of snow they have, since it is a determining factor for the absorption of CO2. The more snow they have, the less CO2 they will absorb, although they also reflect more heat.

CO2 absorption studies

eurasian forests

To help quantify changes in carbon uptake, ESA's GlobSnow project uses satellite data to generate daily snow cover maps for the entire Northern Hemisphere between 1979 and 2015.

The beginning of plant growth in boreal forests is advancing from average about eight days in the last 36 years. This leads to the vegetation being able to retain more CO2 once the snow melts. This has been discovered by a team of scientists specializing in climate and remote sensing, led by the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

When they obtain this information, they combine it with the exchange of carbon dioxide between ecosystems and the atmosphere in the forests of Finland, Sweden, Russia and Canada. Once they did this, the team was able to discover that the anticipated advance of spring has caused a retention 3,7% more CO2 than before. This contributes to the mitigation of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere caused by humans.

In addition, another of the discoveries made by this team is that the difference in spring acceleration occurs in a more pronounced way in the forests of Eurasia, so that the absorption of CO2 in these areas doubles with respect to the forests Americans.

“Satellite data have played an essential role in providing information on the variability of the carbon cycle. By combining satellite and terrestrial information, we have been able to convert observations of snow melt into higher-order information on spring photosynthetic activity and carbon absorption, ”says Professor Jouni Pulliainen, who led the team of researchers at the Meteorological Institute Finnish.

The results obtained in these investigations will be used to improve climate models and to make predictions about global warming. As scientists have more information about the functioning of ecosystems and their exchange of matter and energy with the atmosphere, the better the prediction models that they will prepare for the new climate change scenarios that await us.

It is important to soak up information in order to create policies that help us mitigate climate change or adapt to its multiple negative effects on society. This study represents a breakthrough in the field of CO2 absorption.


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