Predicting climate change

Understanding carbon cycle feedbacks to predict climate change at large scale

From ETH Zurich

Data enables understanding of carbon cycle feedbacks to predict climate change at a large scale. Credit Andrew Coelho, Unsplash Photography

Thomas Crowther identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world. He will describe how there is room for an additional 1.2 trillion new trees around the world that could absorb more carbon than human emissions each year. Crowther also describes data from thousands of soil samples collected by local scientists that reveal the world’s Arctic and sub-Arctic regions store most of the world’s carbon. But the warming of these ecosystems is causing the release of this soil carbon, a process that could accelerate climate change by 17%. This research is revealing that the restoration of vegetation and soil carbon is by far our best weapon in the fight against climate change.

The living parts of the planet make it unique from all other parts of the solar system, and they drive every aspect of biogeochemical cycling. It is essential that we represent these living processes into our understanding of current and future biogeochemical cycles in order to understand and predict climate change.

In their research, the Crowther Lab uses the largest global dataset of forest inventory data (the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative), measured by people on the ground in over 1.2 million locations around the world combined with satellite observations, to get a mechanistic understanding of the global forest system. The lab also uses an equivalent database for below-ground ecology – the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative. This initiative, with tens of thousands of soil samples that describe the global patterns in the biomass and the diversity of the global soil microbiome, paired with satellite data generates a first glimpse at the billions of below-ground species that determine soil fertility, atmospheric composition and the climate.

Using this combination of above ground and below ground data the research team can identify regions of high priority for biodiversity conservation. Additionally, they can finally start to understand the feedbacks that determine atmospheric carbon concentrations over the rest of the century. They now understand that, as the soil warms, carbon emissions from the soil will increase, particularly in the high-latitude arctic and sub-arctic regions.

Under a business-as-usual climate scenario the Crowther lab model suggests that warming would drive the loss of ~55 gigatons of carbon from the upper soil horizons by 2050. This value is around 12-17 per cent of the expected anthropogenic emissions over this period. These are the ‘climate change feed-backs’ that Crowther discusses in his session, and understanding these processes is critical to effectively managing natural systems in order to combat climate change.


Thomas Crowther, Assistant Professor Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland speaks during the Climate Change: Understanding Feedback from Nature, Culture and Society session on Saturday, February 16th, 2019; 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM; Marriott Wardman Park, Delaware Suite.

From EurekAlert! Public Release: 16-Feb-2019



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February 16, 2019 10:23 pm

The additional forest will absorb more black body-producing sunlight through photosynthesis, and not due to changes to the CO2 cycle.

Reply to  migueldelrio
February 17, 2019 2:10 am

How does “black body-producing sunlight” work? That’s a new concept to me.

Jock Ularity
Reply to  Greg
February 17, 2019 9:11 am

Now – this would all be well and good if the planet was warming inordinately…

Reply to  migueldelrio
February 17, 2019 5:50 pm

Yup, forests have much lower albedo and growing more trees will thus warm the planet.
Has anyone checked whether all the forest-fire-suppression activities of humans has contributed to global warming>

Richard Petschauer
Reply to  migueldelrio
February 18, 2019 9:07 am

The photosynthesis process absorbs energy from the sunlight that strikes the leaves and turns CO2 in he air to C (carbon) that combines with H2O to form the hydrocarbons that make the tree grow.

Using a simple IR thermometer and taking the temperature of grass and a blacktop path next to it when the sun is striking both will show a very large difference – 30 F or more.

Julian Braggins
February 16, 2019 11:26 pm

Lets see, NASA predicts a cooling climate and that CO2 is a cooling gas, wow, might be a good idea to plant trees, which is a good idea in any event as they are useful. Drax power station might appreciate that in a few years too.
[Search domain]

Jonathan Castle
February 16, 2019 11:48 pm

I grow weary of so-called ‘scientific’ papers or studies that fail to distinguish between soil-borne ‘carbon’ and carbon dioxide emissions. The former is merely scaremongering, not science.

Reply to  Jonathan Castle
February 17, 2019 10:18 pm

The two are difficult to distinguish. The isotopic ratios are similar. By all reasonable accounts, soil respiration contributes six times more Carbon to the atmosphere than humans. Not scaremongering. Soils have been doing this since the Devonian, and at much higher rates at warmer temperatures. We humans are creatures of the Pleistocene. Our current efforts amount to pissing into a river of Carbon flux that existed long before we did.

Non Nomen
February 16, 2019 11:49 pm

Any statement from the Micky-Mann or his ilk yet? I doubt that they will allow their gravy-train being stopped by reforestation.

Reply to  Non Nomen
February 17, 2019 2:37 am

started giggling
so that top story on the huge areas of trees removed for that nice heat generating solar farm is on his replanting list I hope?

February 16, 2019 11:57 pm

Does anything useful ever come from EurekAlert? This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a massive heap of bovine excrement masquerading as an academic paper.

Flight Level
February 17, 2019 12:38 am

Time ago the EPFZ was a respectable Federal institute of technology. Then easy CO2 grants changed the game.

It’s sistership, the EPFL, Federal institute of technology of Lausanne went even lower as it awarded a “Honoris Causa Doctor” title to Al Gore. Who, in his inaugural speech mentioned that “There are millions of degrees in the center of the earth waiting to get on the surface…”

Later, the venerable EPFL hosted a show & tell session with Mr. Guy Negre, inventor of “AirPod”, a revolutionary totally greenvehicle driven by compressed air.

Photographs with politicians ensued.

Mr, Negre explained his revolutionary motor as such:
-On the down stroke, air is aspired through the intake valve. Once closed, the cylinder rises up and compressively warms the contained air to a very high temperature. At this point, an injection of very cold highly compressed air occurs resulting in a fabulous release of thermal energy that drives the piston downwards with great force.”

Surprisingly, none of the venerable professors manhandled him out. Big applause ensued instead.

A company to produce these cars was setup and production facilities rented.

The EPFL obtained funds for doctoral research on optimal recharging stations for air driven cars.

Less than a year later all was forgotten and Mr. Guy Negre went missing as always after such stunts.

So far about how cautiously one should consider any CO2 related research project carried by Swiss government funded facilities.

February 17, 2019 12:41 am

I assume their business-as-usual scenario is firmly fixed at RCP 8.5.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  lee
February 17, 2019 4:50 am

Yes, they all use RCP8.5 (the worst-case scenario). RCP8.5 doesn’t even come close to representing reality.

These studies ought to give results for all the climate models, but they always use the worst-case, most unrealistic scenario, RCP8.5, for their studies. Maximum scare factor seems to be what they are after The other climate models wouldn’t be nearly as scary.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 17, 2019 1:53 pm

Despite doing next to nothing regarding CO2 emissions (as told to us by the leading lights of the AGW movement) actual CO2 increases have been below the best case scenario as put forth by the IPCC.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  lee
February 17, 2019 11:11 am

{my bold below}
“RCP8.5 was developed to represent a high-end emissions scenario. “Compared to the scenario
literature RCP8.5 depicts thus a relatively conservative business as usual case
with low income, high population and high energy demand due to only modest improvements
in energy intensity.”

Chris Hanley
Reply to  lee
February 17, 2019 11:46 am

The IPCC’s estimates of CO2 sensitivity range from 2C — 6C settling on 3C, so all their “scenarios” are just one additional level remote from possible reality.

John Tillman
February 17, 2019 12:56 am

More plant food in the air has already expanded forests and made trees bigger. But, sure plant more, by all means, to take advantage of the vegetation nutrition humans have liberated from sequestration.

Trees are C3 plants, so benefit greatly from a fourth molecule of CO2 per 10,000 dry air molecules over the past century.

Ian W
Reply to  John Tillman
February 17, 2019 3:59 am

A lot of the increase in CO2 could be ‘blamed’ on Henry’s Law and the warm oceans and that unfortunately seems to be petering out as the SSTs drop. The real concern should be that there could be a drop in the CO2 in the atmosphere reversing the greening and perhaps leading to mass starvation.

Life’s survival on the Earth is currently hazarded by the cooler SSTs and diatoms sequestering vast amounts of carbonates. It is lunacy to attempt to sequester more CO2.

Gary Ashe
Reply to  John Tillman
February 17, 2019 4:31 am

”Trees are C3 plants, so benefit greatly from a fourth molecule of CO2 per 10,000 dry air molecules over the past century.”

Sheesh you factivists and your factivism.

Reply to  John Tillman
February 17, 2019 1:54 pm

How dare you introduce facts into an emotional argument?

Stephen Richards
February 17, 2019 1:22 am

how there is room for an additional 1.2 trillion new trees around the world that could absorb more carbon than human emissions each year.

What about the other 97% of emissions ?

Rhys Jaggar
February 17, 2019 1:34 am

Not wishing to be rude, but this has been common wisdom for more than thirty years.

The drillers and the loggers caused the problem chopping down forests for money, now the frackers claim they have a solution?

Do me a favour and remove both sets of nutcases (green nutcases and fracking nutcases) from claiming credit and accept that the yellers were on foghorn mode for 30 years, refusing to listen to common sense.

The old story: make money destroying something then demand to make money restoring that which you destroyed.

The only principle applicable here is this: those who cut the forests down pay humanity to reafforest, they do not profit from reafforesting themselves.

Ooh, is that going to trigger them into murder again??

Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
February 17, 2019 6:46 am

Because of drillers and frackers, forests in the US are not cut down for fuel. The forested areas of the country have remained stable for over a hundred years, so if drillers and frackers have had an impact, it has been to prevent further deforestation.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  jtom
February 17, 2019 9:56 am

“The forested areas of the country have remained stable for over a hundred years, so if drillers and frackers have had an impact, it has been to prevent further deforestation.”

IIRC, abandoning small farms in marginal locations led to reforestation. I have seen areas of Vermont and Ohio where this has occurred. It happened between WWI and the end of WWII. It has lead to large increases in the forested area of the notheastern US.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
February 17, 2019 10:06 am

Ignore that man:”US Forest Resource Facts and Historical Trends”
Land and Forest Area
In 1630, the estimated area of U.S. forest land was 1,023 million acres or about 46 percent of the total land area. Since 1630, about 256 million acres of forest land have been converted to other uses—mainly agricultural. Nearly two-thirds of the net conversion to other uses occurred in the second half of the 19th century, when an average of 13 square miles (mi2) of forest was cleared every day for 50 years. By 1910, the area of forest land had declined to an estimated 754 million acres, or 34 percent of the total land area. In 2012, forest land comprised 766 million acres, or 33 percent of the total land area of the United States. Forest area has been relatively stable since 1910, although the population has more than tripled since then.

Reply to  jtom
February 17, 2019 1:58 pm

I’m trying to figure out what he means by “triggering them to murder again”.
What exactly has that dude been smoking?

Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
February 17, 2019 1:56 pm

When have drillers ever cut down forests?
Perhaps if you would stop hating capitalism and actually learn something about it, you would stop saying such stupid things.

Reply to  MarkW
February 17, 2019 1:57 pm

PS: What the heck is so bad about loggers cutting down forests for money? Do you have something against people other than yourself making money? Regardless, loggers have always replanted the areas they cut down.

February 17, 2019 2:16 am

How hot is that country?

To predict how climate change/global warming will affect a country, you need to know what the country’s current temperatures are, for the average hottest month, the average month, and the average coldest month.

But the IPCC, and Alarmists in general, don’t want you to believe that. They want you to believe that ALL warming is “BAD”. And that ANY warming is “BAD” for EVERY country, no matter what that country’s climate is.

Next time that you talk to an Alarmist, ask them if global warming is “bad” for Russia (temperature data for Russia is shown in the article).


This article contains 3 graphs, and 1 table.

The table is at the end of this article, and lists all 216 countries in alphabetical order, along with the region, population, and temperature of the average coldest month, the average month, and the average hottest month.

The 3 graphs each list all 216 counties, along with a bar graph showing the temperature of the average coldest month, the average month, and the average hottest month, for each country.


It is fun just browsing through the graphs, seeing the temperatures of the different countries, and trying to explain why different countries have different temperatures.

But eventually, you will probably want to look up a particular country (like the country that you live in). Because there are 216 countries, you might find it hard to find a particular country. You can use your knowledge of a countries temperatures, to help you to locate it on a graph.

If you live in Kuwait, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Chad, Qatar, Sudan, Niger, or Pakistan, and you are looking at the graph sorted by the average hottest month, then I suggest that you look at the bottom of the graph (they all have high average hottest months).

If you live in Mongolia, Russia, Greenland, Kazakhstan, Canada, Finland, Kyrgyzstan, or Armenia, and you are looking at the graph sorted by the average coldest month, then I suggest that you look at the top of the graph (they all have low average coldest months).

If you live in England (which is listed under the country name “United Kingdom”), then I have to say “bad luck”. Not everybody can live in a country with nice temperatures. I am just joking. But United Kingdom actually has the 7th lowest average hottest month temperature (+19.8 degrees Celsius, that is colder than Finland, and Russia). I lived in London for about a year, and I was amazed at how nearly everyone in England gets badly sunburned, whenever there is a sunny day. It is because they don’t get many sunny days, so they like to enjoy them, when they occur.


Time to get serious again. You can’t search for a country using the browsers “find” function, because the graphs and the table are all pictures. But there is a fairly easy way to find a particular country. Look it up in the alphabetical table at the end of this article. Memorize (or if you are like me, write down) the temperature of the average coldest month, the average month, and the average hottest month.

To find the particular country on the graph sorted by the hottest month, find the countries average hottest month, in the hottest month “continuum”. The country will be near that position, in the hottest month “continuum”.

Geoff Sherrington
February 17, 2019 3:03 am

Even if the soils get hotter, the vegetation on them will also grow faster and also give a faster rate of CO2 photosynthesis etc to chew up more CO2.
Why not write about the whole system, not just a misleading part?

February 17, 2019 3:56 am

Whilst there is nothing wrong with more trees, they are good at producing the Oxygen from the CO2, let us not forget that CO2 also is a fertilizer, so it will help the trees grow.

The article appears to be saying that CO2 is a problem,. so forget it. Oh for some real science


February 17, 2019 4:18 am

“…long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world. He will describe how there is room for an additional 1.2 trillion new trees around the world…”

If forests aren’t currently growing where they used to, I think the probability is very great that they won’t grow there now without some degree of intervention and maintenance. Where I live forests just happen; cleared land that isn’t mowed reverts back to forest within about 10-15 years. I suspect the same is true for everything east of the Great Plains in the US. I’m sure growing trees in more arid regions is possible, but it isn’t practical.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  icisil
February 17, 2019 4:53 am

If we plant 1.2 Trillion new trees, where are we going to put the windmills?

Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 17, 2019 6:07 am

We’ll just have to make them really, really tall so the blades will clear the treetops or else keep replacing the blades because the blades clear-cut the treetops.

February 17, 2019 6:39 am

The percentage of forested lands in the US has remained virtually the same for over a hundred years. Most of the deforested land is used for agriculture. So I must assume the areas available for reforesting lie in other countries. Why do I have this gut feeling that in a lot of those areas, trees are being used for fuel, and to reforest, you must first develop affordable alternatives for energy. Otherwise, the trees will be cut down again and again.

Did anyone bother asking why those deforested areas became that way, and why forests have not grown back naturally?

Reply to  jtom
February 17, 2019 9:00 am


The standard description of US forests is that they have been stable in size for a century. That’s not really correct. US forests have been increasing in size slowly but steadily for 4 decades, and are now 7% larger than at their ~1920 minimum.

For example, much of the once cleared farmland in New England is now returning to old growth forest.

This continues today. As farmers die in New York and surrounding areas, their farms often return to wilderness (unless they’re near one of the few growing urban areas).

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Larry
February 17, 2019 9:14 am

You said, “… much of the once cleared farmland in New England is now returning to old growth forest.” Shouldn’t that be “second growth?”

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
February 17, 2019 11:37 am

My mother’s folks left the farm in the 1940s. (western Penn.)
Some parts were planted with pine trees, of the Christmas type.
Many of those were never cut and were densely planted.
Those now appear to be gone and a new forest developing,
around a rebuilt house.

Nick Schroeder
February 17, 2019 6:50 am

Because the atmosphere and its associated albedo reflect away 30% of the incoming solar energy (like the reflective panel behind a car’s windshield) the earth is cooler with an atmosphere and not warmer per greenhouse theory.

Because of the major (>60%) non-radiative heat transfer processes of the atmospheric molecules the surface of the earth cannot radiate as a black body and there is no “extra” energy for the greenhouse gasses to “trap”/absorb/radiate/“warm” the earth.

No greenhouse effect, no CO2 warming, no man caused climate change.

No problem.

February 17, 2019 8:41 am

Okay, so, Mr. Crowther wants to take us back to the Carboniferous era, when there was so much Oxygen (O2) in the air that dragonflies were the size of my computer? And Centipedes weren’t just poisonous, they were HUUGGE!!

We have a balance right now. Why is it that these people don’t understand that and want to disturb it? Should they be referred to someone for counseling? Or should they stop getting checks from the Greenbeans for their Brilliant Ideas?

Just askin’, because regrowing heavily-forested areas takes time, and we should maybe start with that acreage in Virginia that was clear cut for a solar farm…. something like that.

February 17, 2019 8:53 am

to be able to predict “climate change” one first has to be able to predict the weather.,…….since climate is only about the past weather and says nothing about the future weather.

Paul Johnson
February 17, 2019 8:54 am

“Under a business-as-usual climate scenario…” The absurd RCP8.5 strikes again!

John Robertson
February 17, 2019 12:56 pm

What is with Gang Green,that they wilfully ignore water?
This planet is dominated by water,in it’s various forms,yet their computer models shy away from water as a cat from a bath.
Nothing about what little we know of weather and climate can be explained without incorporating water and it’s phase changes.
Climatology as demonstrated by the Team,IPCC,TM is less than pseudo science.

February 17, 2019 1:23 pm

Re. Flight Level above, they’ve scored zero in attempting to predict future conditions. Therefore, they will now try to sell their ability to engineer future conditions… RIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT.

It’s worth noting that Swiss “science” lies at the heart of the IPCC enterprise, the so-called Bern Model. It’s the basis for the IPCC’s projections of future CO2 and, hence, for its projections of future climate. The Bern Model is a joke. It’s failings are laughable: [58:25]

February 17, 2019 2:44 pm

As we all know, it doesn’t matter how much improvement in climate change we bring about, it will not stop the bantering and demagoguery against carbon based energy. Because it’s not about carbon based energy or even climate change. It’s about putting the kibosh on leading western economies.

Steve R
February 18, 2019 11:06 am

I suspect grasslands and prairies remove more CO2 than an equivalent area of forest.

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