Progressive Mid-latitude Afforestation: Local and Remote Climate Impacts in the Framework of Two Coupled Earth System Models
Lague, Marysa Monique
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Vegetation influences the atmosphere in complex and non-linear ways, such that large- scale changes in vegetation cover can drive changes in climate on both local and global scales. Large-scale land surface changes have been shown to introduce excess energy to one hemi- sphere, causing a shift in atmospheric circulation on a global scale. However, past work has not quantified how the climate response scales with the area of vegetation. Here, we system- atically evaluate the response of climate to linearly increasing the area of forest cover over the northern mid-latitudes. We show that the magnitude of afforestation of the northern mid-latitudes determines the climate response in a non-linear fashion, and identify a thresh- old in vegetation-induced cloud feedbacks - a concept not previously addressed by large-scale vegetation manipulation experiments. Small increases in tree cover drive compensating cloud feedbacks, while latent heat fluxes reach a threshold after sufficiently large increases in tree cover, causing the troposphere to warm and dry, subsequently reducing cloud cover. In- creased absorption of solar radiation at the surface is driven by both surface albedo changes and cloud feedbacks. We identify how vegetation-induced changes in cloud cover further feedback on changes in the global energy balance. We also show how atmospheric cross- equatorial energy transport changes as the area of afforestation is incrementally increased (a relationship which has not previously been demonstrated). This work demonstrates that while some climate effects (such as energy transport) of large scale mid-latitude afforestation scale roughly linearly across a wide range of afforestation areas, others (such as the local partitioning of the surface energy budget) are non-linear, and sensitive to the particular magnitude of mid-latitude forcing. Our results highlight the importance of considering both local and remote climate responses to large-scale vegetation change, and explore the scaling relationship between changes in vegetation cover and the resulting climate impacts.
- Atmospheric sciences