Posts Tagged ‘Negative feedback’

Plants produce biogenic aerosols and provide a negative feedback to warming climate

April 30, 2013

Another study showing a negative feedback to a warming climate. Needless to say such a negative feeback finds no place in climate models. (The lead author points out that this previous statement is erroneus). Needless to say I doubt if such negative feedback is included in all climate models.

 Paasonen, P., et. al. 2013. Evidence for negative climate feedback: warming increases aerosol number concentrationsNature Geoscience doi: 10.1038/NGEO1800

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) reports:

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As temperatures warm, plants release gases that help form clouds and cool the atmosphere, according to research from IIASA and the University of Helsinki. 

The new study, published in Nature Geoscience, identified a negative feedback loop in which higher temperatures lead to an increase in concentrations of natural aerosols that have a cooling effect on the atmosphere. “Plants, by reacting to changes in temperature, also moderate these changes,” says IIASA and University of Helsinki researcher Pauli Paasonen, who led the study. 

Scientists had known that some aerosols – particles that float in the atmosphere – cool the climate as they reflect sunlight and form cloud droplets, which reflect sunlight efficiently. Aerosol particles come from many sources, including human emissions. But the effect of so-called biogenic aerosol – particulate matter that originates from plants – had been less well understood. Plants release gases that, after atmospheric oxidation, tend to stick to aerosol particles, growing them into the larger-sized particles that reflect sunlight and also serve as the basis for cloud droplets. The new study showed that as temperatures warm and plants consequently release more of these gases, the concentrations of particles active in cloud formation increase. 

“Everyone knows the scent of the forest,” says Ari Asmi, University of Helsinki researcher who also worked on the study. “That scent is made up of these gases.” While previous research had predicted the feedback effect, until now nobody had been able to prove its existence except for case studies limited to single sites and short time periods. The new study showed that the effect occurs over the long-term in continental size scales. 

The effect of enhanced plant gas emissions on climate is small on a global scale – only countering approximately 1 percent of climate warming, the study suggested. “This does not save us from climate warming,” says Paasonen. However, he says, “Aerosol effects on climate are one of the main uncertainties in climate models. Understanding this mechanism could help us reduce those uncertainties and make the models better.”  

The study also showed that the effect was much larger on a regional scale, counteracting possibly up to 30% of warming in more rural, forested areas where anthropogenic emissions of aerosols were much lower in comparison to the natural aerosols. That means that especially in places like Finland, Siberia, and Canada this feedback loop may reduce warming substantially. ….. 


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