Darker Surfaces Store More Heat
Jeremy Potter NOAA/OAR/OER
Scientists work on the ice in the Arctic under a midnight sun.
Large swaths of the Arctic tundra will be warm enough to support lush vegetation and trees by 2050, suggests a new study.
Higher temperatures will lessen snow cover, according to the study, which is detailed in the March 31 issue of the journal Nature Climate Change. That, in turn, will decrease the sunlight reflected back into the atmosphere and increase warming.
About half the areas will see vegetation change, and areas currently populated by shrubs may find woody trees taking their place.
"Substitute the snowy surface with the darker surface of a coniferous tree, and the darker surface stores more heat," said study co-author Pieter Beck, a vegetative ecologist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. "It's going to exacerbate warming."
Arctic Sea Ice Extent on Aug. 26, 2012
This visualization shows the extent of Arctic sea ice on Aug. 26, 2012, compared to the average sea ice minimum from 1979 through 2010 shown in orange. The sea ice dipped to its smallest extent ever recorded in more than three decades, according to scientists from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center.