Very Cool: Trees Stalling Effects of Global Heating in Eastern US, Study Finds

Guardian graphic. Source: Barnes, et al, 2024, ‘A Century of Reforestation Reduced Anthropogenic Warming in the Eastern United States.’ Note: Forest age data from North American Carbon Program. Age estimates as of 2019 at 1km resolution. Temperature data from Delaware Air Temperature & Precipitation Dataset.

Vast reforestation a major reason for ‘warming hole’ across parts of US where temperatures have flatlined or cooled

Trees provide innumerable benefits to the world, from food to shelter to oxygen, but researchers have now found their dramatic rebound in the eastern US has delivered a further, stunning feat – the curtailing of the soaring temperatures caused by the climate crisis.

While the US, like the rest of the world, has heated up since industrial times due to the burning of fossil fuels, scientists have long been puzzled by a so-called “warming hole” over parts of the US south-east where temperatures have flatlined, or even cooled, despite the unmistakable broader warming trend.

Trees provide innumerable benefits to the world, from food to shelter to oxygen, but researchers have now found their dramatic rebound in the eastern US has delivered a further, stunning feat – the curtailing of the soaring temperatures caused by the climate crisis.

While the US, like the rest of the world, has heated up since industrial times due to the burning of fossil fuels, scientists have long been puzzled by a so-called “warming hole” over parts of the US south-east where temperatures have flatlined, or even cooled, despite the unmistakable broader warming trend.

A major reason for this anomaly, the new study finds, is the vast reforestation of much of the eastern US following the initial loss of large numbers of trees in the wake of European settlement in America. Such large expanses have been reforested in the past century – with enough trees sprouting back to cover an area larger than England – that it has helped stall the affect of global heating. 02-17-24

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