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Forest fires may cool climate

Forest fires may cool climate

Forest fires may cool climate
November 16, 2006

Boreal forest fires may actually cool climate according to research published in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Science.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), found that cooling may occur in regions where burned trees — and reduced canopy cover — exposes more snow, which reflects the sun’s rays back into space. This effect may outweigh the climate warming impact of the greenhouse gases released by forest burning.

“Boreal forest fires release greenhouse gases that contribute to climate warming, but inseparable changes in the forest canopy cause more sunlight to be reflected back into space during spring and summer for many decades after fire,” said James Randerson, associate professor of Earth system science at UCI and lead author of the study. “This cooling effect cancels the impact of the greenhouse gases, so the net effect of fire is close to neutral when averaged globally, and in northern regions may lead to slightly colder temperatures.”

“We need to explore all possible ways to reduce the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Improving the efficiency of our use of fossil fuels has to be our highest priority,” Randerson said. “Storing carbon in terrestrial ecosystems also can help, but we have to consider all of the different ways that ecosystems can influence climate.”

This article used information and quotes from a UCI news release.

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