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Forests Create Vital Clouds

New research shows that planting forests helps cool the planet more than previously thought.

Researchers at Princeton University have discovered that many climate models don’t take into account the clouds produced by forested areas, resulting in cooler temperatures. Scientists have previously been concerned that trees in mid-altitude regions (temperate areas between the tropics and polar zones) would not be effective in controlling the climate when they lost their leaves in winter, reports Smithsonian Magazine.

Some scientists questioned the benefit of replanting forests in mid-altitude regions because of albedo - the ability of the Earth’s surface to reflect sunlight - when deciduous trees lose leaves during cold seasons. The Princeton researchers point out that theory ignores an important consideration.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study shows that reduced albedo is more than offset by the considerable clouds created by these forests when leafed trees release moisture into the atmosphere.

“The main thing is that nobody has known whether planting trees at midlatitudes is good or bad because of the albedo problem,” co-author Amilcare Porporato, a civil and environmental engineer at Princeton, says. “We show that if one considers that clouds tend to form more frequently over forested areas, then planting trees over large areas is advantageous and should be done for climate purposes.”

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