Modeling the greening of the Arctic

From the National Science Foundation:

New Models Predict Dramatically Greener Arctic in the Coming Decades

International Polar Year- (IPY) funded research predicts boom in trees, shrubs, will lead to net increase in climate warming

A map of predicted greening of the Arctic

A map of predicted greening of the Arctic as compared with observed distribution Credit and Larger Version

Rising temperatures will lead to a massive “greening” of the Arctic by mid-century, as a result of marked increases in plant cover, according to research supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of its International Polar Year (IPY) portfolio.

The greening not only will have effects on plant life, the researchers noted, but also on the wildlife that depends on vegetation for cover. The greening could also have a multiplier effect on warming, as dark vegetation absorbs more solar radiation than ice, which reflects sunlight.

In a paper published March 31 in Nature Climate Change, scientists reveal new models projecting that wooded areas in the Arctic could increase by as much as 50 percent over the coming decades. The researchers also show that this dramatic greening will accelerate climate warming at a rate greater than previously expected.

“Such widespread redistribution of Arctic vegetation would have impacts that reverberate through the global ecosystem,” said Richard Pearson, lead author on the paper and a research scientist at the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation.

In addition to Pearson, the research team includes other scientists from the museum, as well as from AT&T Labs-Research, Woods Hole Research Center, Colgate and Cornell universities, and the University of York.

The research was funded by two related, collaborative NSF IPY grants, one made to the museum and one to the Woods Hole Research Center.

IPY was a two-year, global campaign of research in the Arctic and Antarctic that fielded scientists from more than 60 nations in the period 2007-2009. The IPY lasted two years to insure a full year of observations at both poles, where extreme cold and darkness preclude research for much of the year. NSF was the lead U.S. government agency for IPY.

Although the IPY fieldwork has been largely accomplished “in addition to the intensive field efforts undertaken during the IPY, projects such as this one work to understand IPY and other data in a longer-term context, broadening the impact of any given data set,” said Hedy Edmonds, Arctic Natural Sciences program director in the Division of Polar Programs of NSF’s Geosciences Directorate.

Plant growth in Arctic ecosystems has increased over the past few decades, a trend that coincides with increases in temperatures, which are rising at about twice the global rate.

The research team used climate scenarios for the 2050s to explore how the greening trend is likely to continue in the future. The scientists developed models that statistically predict the types of plants that could grow under certain temperatures and precipitation. Although it comes with some uncertainty, this type of modeling is a robust way to study the Arctic because the harsh climate limits the range of plants that can grow, making this system simpler to model compared to other regions, such as the tropics.

The models reveal the potential for massive redistribution of vegetation across the Arctic under future climate, with about half of all vegetation switching to a different class and a massive increase in tree cover. What might this look like? In Siberia, for instance, trees could grow hundreds of miles north of the present tree line.

These impacts would extend far beyond the Arctic region, according to Pearson.

For example, some species of birds migrate from lower latitudes seasonally, and rely on finding particular polar habitats, such as open space for ground-nesting.

The computer modeling for the project was supported by a separate NSF grant to Cornell by the Division of Computer and Network Systems in NSF’s Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering, as part of the directorate’s Expeditions in Computing program.

“The Expeditions grant has enabled us to develop sophisticated probabilistic models that can scale up to continent-wide vegetation prediction and provide associated uncertainty estimates. This is a great example of the transformative research happening within the new field of Computational Sustainability,” said Carla P. Gomes, principal investigator at Cornell.

In addition to the first-order impacts of changes in vegetation, the researchers investigated the multiple climate-change feedbacks that greening would produce.

They found that a phenomenon called the albedo effect, based on the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface, would have the greatest impact on the Arctic’s climate. When the sun hits snow, most of the radiation is reflected back to space. But when it hits an area that’s “dark,” or covered in trees or shrubs, more sunlight is absorbed in the area and temperature increases. This has a positive feedback to climate warming: the more vegetation there is, the more warming will occur.

“By incorporating observed relationships between plants and albedo, we show that vegetation distribution shifts will result in an overall positive feedback to climate that is likely to cause greater warming than has previously been predicted,” said co-author and NSF grantee Scott Goetz, of the Woods Hole Research Center.

-NSF-

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Steve

Green is good, right? /

Chris B

New Models Predict Dramatically Greener……..
Does one need to read any further than the first five words?

Steve

…so there is overall warming from shrubs and a subsequent feedback, but there is no UHI?

Chuck L

Awesome. Another model projection. So. It. Must. Come. To. Pass.

“a trend that coincides with increases in temperatures, which are rising at about twice the global rate”
That’s because “the global rate” is meaningless. So-called “global warming” is really “warming in the Northern Hemisphere, in the winter and at night”. Freeman Dyson points out that CO2’s biggest impact on temperatures is in dry air, which is generally cold air (as warmer air tends to absorb more water vapor). It is not an increase in temperatures in hot places and seasons.

TomRude

I guess with warm air at 1070hPa in the Arctic… sarc/off

Don Easterbrook

Now all that is needed is for nature to confer with the models! Unfortunately, models don’t include real, physical data, like past climate cycles and what the polar areas looked like for the past 10,000 years when the climate was warmer than today. And do you suppose the underlying basis for the models is that CO2 will cause drastic warming? Did the models consider that we haven’t had any global warming for the past 15 years?

Fred from Canuckistan

Since the basis of these forecasts is a warming planet, would they also conclude a cooling planet will result in the Arctic not going green?
Right.

The bird that were looking for nesting space never arrived
Wind mills.
Alfred

Let’s get this straight. These people have discovered something called ‘albedo’ previously unknown to physics? And Scott is a ‘grantee’? Great job title!

Matt

Its about time for a “GIGO model” real estate fund … buying up cheap properties while there is still a bit of snow, and only scattered palm trees.

hunter

The AGW fanatics somehow always conclude that “it is worse than predicted”.
No matter how many times reliaty decides otherwise.

NSF is afraid of what the future might bring and go about spreading amplified fear.

Richard111

“sophisticated probabilistic models that can scale up to continent-wide vegetation prediction”
Unbelievable! All we need now is Johnny Appleseed to appear on the scene.

Tim

You don’t need a ‘model’ to tell you that ‘if’ it gets warmer there will be more plants, let alone financial grants. 2 years??? God save us…

What a waste of money. Computer models built upon computer models. Even worse when the first computer model is wrong!

Jim G

“Plant growth in Arctic ecosystems has increased over the past few decades, a trend that coincides with increases in temperatures, which are rising at about twice the global rate.”
I doubt that a fraction of a degree here or there in the Arctic is as big a driver of any greening as is the increase in CO2, which is increasing much more rapidly than temperature and has lead temperature in that respect historically. In any event, these are GOOD things, not bad. Colder is bad and may well what we are in for on a global basis given the past 15 or so years. Less crops, less food=more disease, more wars, more death, historically.

Peter in Ohio

What might this look like? In Siberia, for instance, trees could grow hundreds of miles north of the present tree line.
I’m no expert, but I believe that this has happened in the past. It obviously didn’t lead to runaway global warming then so why should it be different today?
For example:
http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/peteet_02/

Paul

Yes I agree. Whilst the arctic turns into a lush tropical rainforest the amazon, caribbean and sahara desert will be under a mile of ice. The Earths equator will become a ring of ice and each side of it will be the new arctic tundra.

Jim G

By the way, twice the global rate for the past 15 years would be 2×0=0.

Peter Miller

Just another instance where grants are used to fund the development of climate models which can be absolutely guaranteed to demonstrate:
1. Thermageddon is imminent.
2. More funds are urgently required for additional studies on this very ‘serious matter’.
3. All their dire predictions will occur after the lifetime of the average reader. :
There is something inherently wrong with this prediction in that the growing season is so short in the Arctic that even if temperature does rise in the years ahead, the spread of vegetation northwards will be extremely slow, at a rate measurable in centuries, not decades..
.

EM

Apparently this is where the money is at these days in climate science: rank conjecture (“modeling”) about what *might* happen in 40 or 50 years.

jbutzi

Amazing faith in modeling, with guesses piled on assumptions to the third power projected 40 years into the future and fed to the believing masses for indoctrination of others and conversion of the unbelieving. How does this get ANY traction at all. Are these scientists? They don’t act like it.

Must be some of those ‘model’ trees that can grow on ice then!

Once again this analysis is predicated on the unverified and failing GCMs prediction of the long term future. If viewed in the light of Professor Murry Salby’s data analsys(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVCps_SwD5w&list=PLILd8YzszWVTp8s1bx2KTNHXCzp8YQR1z&index=3&feature=plpp_video), this whole thing is merely a “what if scenario” with no support for it’s initial assumed condition.

Wayne2

I wonder how much more CO2 all of the increasingly-green and increasingly-tree planet can sequester.

jim Steele

This greening of the Arctic has been promoted for over a decade. In 2001 a paper by Sturm “Increasing shrub abundance in the Arctic” compared aerial photographs that were part of resource exploration from 1950 with identical photographs from 1999. There were 66 photographs and half showed no growth at all. That seems odd since that what plants normally do.
The other half that showed growth was due to infilling not a northerly migration, but the greener photographs were pushed as evidence of CO2 warming. Once established shrubs collect the snow and change the microclimate, and allow denser growth that springs from established rootstocks. Nearly all of the “greening is solely due to this infilling. As people disturbed the Alaskan Arctic since the gold rush days and later for oil exploration, they have broken the permafrost which allows shrubs to invade. None of the climate change studies account for these land use disturbances.
However the simplistic correlation with climate change was strong in the 1990’s because Alaska was one of the more rapidly warming places on the planet. That correlation no longer exists. Since the PDO has shifted to its negative phase and reoriented the Aleutian Low, Alaska has become one of the most rapidly cooling places on earth (see Wendler,G., et al. (2012) The First Decade of the New Century: A Cooling Trend for Most of Alaska. The Open Atmospheric Science Journal, 2012, 6, 111-116). I suspect this greening scenario will soon join the dust bin of failed models.

jlurtz

And “IF” it cools, what is that vegetative effect?

albertalad

We know dinosaurs roamed all the way to the Arctic Ocean. We also know trees did grow in the high Arctic long before the AGW crowd showed up. We have the dinosaurs and the tree exhibits in museums in Canada. We also know when trees did grow all the way to the Arctic there was no runaway heat effect. The ice we currents have lying around in most cases is left over from the last Ice Age. To that effect vegetation barley grows fifteen centimeters tall today, where once great tree grew to hundreds of feet.
Perhaps that lot tend to forget it was barely 11,000 years ago when the entirety of Canada was under two miles of ice. That is no model. That was fact. I live in an area here in Fort McMurray that was once part of the Great Western Sea. We know because we are digging up the aquatic dinosaurs in fact. Climates change without human input as shown by the above.

Louis Hooffstetter

I’m guessing that this vegetation model uses the output of a climate model for its input. (The press release doesn’t specifically say so, but it makes sense). The problem is that reality is not cooperating with climate models. Actual temperatures are about to exceed the 95% confidence interval of most climate model projections. If the authors based this work on the output of one such climate model, their foundation is about to get kicked right out from under them.

DesertYote

One word, Beringia! These propagandist, who are being advertised as researchers, need to shove that in their computer models and smoke it!

David Jay

Well, at least it’s ROBUST.

HankHenry

It would be interesting to know how many different things were looked at making this prediction. What effects will increased vegetation mean? How much more carbon will be sequestered? Did they achieve the warming of their prediction by factoring in a feedback from methane?

JohnG

““The Expeditions grant has enabled us to develop sophisticated probabilistic models that can scale up to continent-wide vegetation prediction and provide associated uncertainty estimates. This is a great example of the transformative research happening within the new field of Computational Sustainability,” said Carla P. Gomes, principal investigator at Cornell.”
Can someone tell me please exactly what this gobbly-goop means?

Billy B

Seems to me this has all happened before. Perhaps Greenland comes to mind.

There used to be a time when humans would have looked upon the greening of the Arctic as a good thing. Somewhere along the line we grew to be a timid, fearful species that sees any change as bad. A risk to be prevented at all costs.

My money is on the plants who live/try to live in the area.
“I bet the plants there are smarter that the NSF people.”
I will give two to one odds to boot.

At what point will climatologists realise that every single prediction made on the basis of computer models has been totally wrong? My answer to this question is: When the grant money dries up!
Could this happen quickly please, as I am sick of reading about these moronic predictions

Theo Goodwin

To be a “grantee,” do you have to turn off all your critical faculties before you are allowed to cash a check? How does the granting agency determine that all critical faculties have been suppressed?
A good topic for modeling would take the “grantees” as points and attempt to measure in concentric circles the decline in critical acumen among other people interacting with the grantees.
/Big Sarc.
Is there one person who works with models (depends on grants for a living) who has produced a critical account of some model study in which he/she was a principal investigator and the study yielded the usual pro-CAGW blarney? Why do modelers exercise no critical faculties at all?

Réaumur

Hm. Doesn’t seem to affect Green-land very much?

Retired Dave

Computer Model based on the output of a failed Computer Model – it is worse than we thought!!!

oeman50

So what is the impact of all the CO2 absorption by the newly grown vegetation? It is a net positive or negative? Also, snow does fall on and cover vegetation, restoring at least some of the albedo effect, although I grant you it will dissipate. It’s just not the same as having no snow 24/7, 365.

Jimbo

“The research team used climate scenarios for the 2050s to explore how the greening trend is likely to continue in the future.”

If the Arctic extent reduction is mostly due to natural climate cycles then this would represent another failed prediction. By the way I thought more Arctic warming lead to more snow leading to higher albedo. 😎

Tucker

Jim G says:
April 10, 2013 at 7:58 am
By the way, twice the global rate for the past 15 years would be 2×0=0.
The problem with your post is that you’re using real data. Data is not evidence of anything. You must use models to make your point if you want to be taken seriously. Using that methodology, our temps are rising at the rate of 3C per century!!

The Tundra will be warmer? That’s why Triticale was developed.
Alfred

Ben Wilson

Golly Gee, if these “sophisticated” computer models show that shrubs and bushes in the arctic are going to cause global warming, then the only solution is to. . . . .
Spray the arctic with agent orange so Gaea will protected from all that pernicious vegetation. . . . . .!!!!

Jaye Bass

Did they really say this? “Computational Sustainability”

KPO

Peter in Ohio says:
April 10, 2013 at 7:56 am
“What might this look like? In Siberia, for instance, trees could grow hundreds of miles north of the present tree line.”
10 to 1, there’s an outcry once logging begins on the “new” trees citing that greening absorbs co2, and shouldn’t be touched.