Ecoclimate Teleconnections: The Large-Scale Impacts of Changes in Mid-Latitude Tree Cover

Monday, 15 December 2014: 4:15 PM
Abigail L. S. Swann, University of Washington, Atmospheric Sciences, Seattle, WA, United States, Inez Y Fung, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, United States and John C H Chiang, Univ California, Berkeley, CA, United States
We show in climate model experiments that large-scale afforestation in northern mid-latitudes warms the Northern Hemisphere and alters global circulation patterns both in the present day and the mid-Holocene. An expansion of dark forests increases the absorption of solar energy and increases surface temperature, particularly in regions where the land surface is unable to compensate with latent heat flux due to water limitation. Atmospheric circulation redistributes the anomalous energy absorbed in the northern hemisphere, in particular toward the south, through altering the Hadley circulation, resulting in the northward displacement of the tropical rain bands. Precipitation decreases over parts of the Amazon basin affecting productivity and increases over the Sahel and Sahara regions in Africa. We demonstrate that the remote and local forcing of atmospheric circulation by vegetation can lead to different dynamical patterns with consequences for precipitation across the globe. These ecoclimate teleconnections represent the linkages between the land surface in different regions of the globe and by inference show that proxy records of plant cover represent not only the response of vegetation to local climate but also that vegetation's influence on global climate patterns. The ability of vegetation to affect remote circulation also has implications for strategies for climate mitigation.