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Fires In Far Northern Forests To Have Cooling, Not Warming, Effect

Gainesville FL (SPX) Nov 20, 2006Scientists agree that the effects of global warming are most severe nearest the poles, and boreal forests are already facing longer summers and more prolonged dry periods. This has spurred many large fires, with the most massive forest fires in recorded Alaskan history occurring in the summer 2004.

Droughts and longer summers tied to global warming are causing more fires in the Earth's vast northernmost forests, a phenomenon that will spew a steadily increasing amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Many scientists have predicted that the result of this influx of greenhouse gas will be even more warming, followed by even more fires and so on - a vicious climactic cycle.
But a team of scientists, including two University of Florida ecologists, has arrived at just the opposite conclusion. Their research shows that while the carbon released by burning high-latitude forests of North America, Europe and Russia will no doubt have a warming effect, it will be less than an unexpected cooling effect. That will come from millions of new deciduous trees reflecting the sun's light away from Earth with their light green leaves in the summer. In the winter, these trees lose their leaves, and white snow on the ground will reflect even more light.
A paper about the research is set to appear Friday in the journal Science

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