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How (some) deforestation might slow warming

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Issue date: 
November 17, 2011
Publisher Name: 
Forest Carbon Asia
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Deforestation in the northern parts of the U.S. can cool down the Earth rather than contribute to global warming, according to a study published Wednesday.

Cutting trees north of 45 degrees latitude — and leaving open spaces — can increase sunlight reflection and thereby decrease heat absorption, according to researchers at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The 45 degree point is halfway between the equator and the North Pole and roughly follows the Canadian/ American border which is nearly 49 degrees.

“If you plant trees, you sequester carbon, which is a benefit to the climate system,” lead investigator and Yale meteorology professor Xuhui Lee said in a statement. “At the same time, if you plant trees you warm the landscape because trees are darker compared to other vegetation types. So they absorb solar radiation.”

“It should help guide forestation projects,” Lee wrote of the current research. “For example, our results suggest that planting trees south of 35 [degrees latitude] is beneficial to the climate but planting north of that may be counter-productive.”

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Extpub | by Dr. Radut