NASA: Forest Canopy in Eastern US Impacted by Warming

February 26, 2013

Trends in forest canopy green cover over the eastern U. S. region from 2000 to 2010 derived from NASA MODIS satellite sensor data. Green shades indicate a positive trend of increasing growing season green cover, whereas brown shades indicate a negative trend of decreasing growing season green cover. Four forest sub-regions of interest are outlined in red, north to south as: Great Lakes, Southern Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic, and southeastern Coastal Plain.

Trends in forest canopy green cover over the eastern U. S. region from 2000 to 2010 derived from NASA MODIS satellite sensor data. Green shades indicate a positive trend of increasing growing season green cover, whereas brown shades indicate a negative trend of decreasing growing season green cover. Four forest sub-regions of interest are outlined in red, north to south as: Great Lakes, Southern Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic, and southeastern Coastal Plain.

Stupid trees. Don’t they know CO2 is plant food?

NASA:

NASA scientists report that warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation locally and regionally have altered the growth of large forest areas in the eastern United States over the past 10 years. Using NASA’s Terra satellite, scientists examined the relationship between natural plant growth trends, as monitored by NASA satellite images, and variations in climate over the eastern United States from 2000 to 2010.

Monthly satellite images from the MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) showed declining density of the green forest cover during summer in four sub-regions, the Upper Great Lakes, southern Appalachian, mid-Atlantic, and southeastern Coastal Plain. More than 20 percent of the non-agricultural area in the four sub-regions that showed decline during the growing season, were covered by forests. Nearly 40 percent of the forested area within the mid-Atlantic sub-region alone showed a significant decline in forest canopy cover.

“We looked next at the relationships between warmer temperatures, rainfall patterns, and reduced forest greenness across these “We looked next at the relationships between warmer temperatures, rainfall patterns, and reduced forest greenness across these regions,” said Christopher Potter, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. “This comprehensive data set gave us the evidence to conclude that a series of relatively dry years since 2000 has been unfavorable for vigorous growth of forest cover over much of the Eastern U. S. this past decade.” Potter is the first author of the paper titled “Declining Vegetation Growth Rates in the Eastern United States from 2000 to 2010,” published by Natural Resources, Dec. 2012, (3), 184-190.

In the past, scientists were uncertain about what was causing the changes in the forests in the eastern U. S. Based on small-scale field site measurements since 1970, forest growth was thought to be increasing in regions where soil nutrients and water were in good supply. At the same time, there were fewer wildfires throughout the eastern U.S., which scientists believe contributed to the transformation of more open lands into closed-canopy forests with more shade-tolerant, fire-sensitive plants.

More recent studies indicate that climate change could be having many adverse and interrelated impacts on the region. The warming climate this century has caused new stresses on trees, such as insect pest outbreaks and the introduction of new pathogens. Scientists consider both climate change and disease to be dominant driving forces in the health of forests in this region.

NASA’s technology is revealing an entirely new picture of these complex impacts. The MODIS satellite captures very broad regional patterns of change in forests, wetlands, and grasslands by continuous monitoring of the natural plant cover over extended time periods. Now, with over a decade of “baseline” data to show how trees typically go through a yearly cycle of leaves blooming, summer growth, and leaves falling, scientists are detecting subtle deviations from the average cycle to provide early warning signs of change at the resolution of a few miles for the entire country.

“The next studies at NASA Ames will research areas that appear most affected by drought and warming to map out changes in forest growth at a resolution of several acres,” said Potter.

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9 Responses to “NASA: Forest Canopy in Eastern US Impacted by Warming”

  1. witsendnj Says:

    It’s enough to make an Ozonista weep. Why don’t they get it?? Even trees at the northernmost part of their range, and annual tropical plants being grown in pots, and landscape shrubs being watered exhibit identical damage. It’s not precipitation!! Persistent background levels of ozone are inexorably rising and have surpassed a concentration that is tolerable to vegetation. It’s all dying right before our eyes, because it’s being poisoned.

    The research on ozone goes back so many decades, and it is so well known to increase vulnerability to pathogens, that it is simply astonishing that the so-called experts overlook it.

    This story just came out and says ozone levels have dropped – but only the episodic peaks have come down, the constant low level exposure has increased – according to the EPA.

    http://www.pressherald.com/news/UNH-foresters-observe-needle-loss-on-New-England-pines.html


    • Consider the most popular forest in the south is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and here is its’ air quality page. They are also several sites (stops) on the Blue Ridge partway that state the large die-off of the forest . This link is a copy of one of the signs along the parkway call “what killed the trees?”

      http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951d02461725y#page/1/mode/1up

      Great Smoky Mountains National Park link:

      http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/air-quality.htm

      “Air pollution is shrinking scenic views, damaging plants, and degrading high elevation streams and soils in the Great Smoky Mountains. Even human health is at risk. Most pollution originates outside the park and is created by power plants, industry, and automobiles…..

      Shrinking Views
      Views from scenic overlooks at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been seriously degraded over the last 50 years by human-made pollution. Since 1948, based on regional airport records, average visibility in the southern Appalachians has decreased 40% in winter and 80% in summer. These degradations in visibility not only affect how far one can see from a scenic overlook, they also reduce how well one can see. Pollution causes colors to appear washed out and obscures landscape features. Pollution typically appears as a uniform whitish haze, different from the natural mist-like clouds for which the Smokies were named.”

      But this is all not true why? Because Fox News doesn’t cover any information on this subject therefore, it is not real (Fox reality syndrome) .

      • witsendnj Says:

        Thanks for those links Anthro. Actually a book published in 1998, An Appalachian Tragedy, made the link between ozone and tree death very clear – including an increased susceptibility to pathogens like the wooly adelgid. It was promptly forgotten. The Park Service tends to be more forthright about the connection than the USDA/Forest Service (and allied academic departments), because the Park Service is more interested in popular support for their continued existence – as opposed to being dominated by the timber and mining industries (and we all know they are aligned with the fossil fuel industry too!).

        So on top of this, first thing this morning I see another story, equally frustrating:

        http://www.pressherald.com/news/UNH-foresters-observe-needle-loss-on-New-England-pines.html

        It’s hard to keep up.


  2. [...] Peter’s original post here, which also covers the recent alarming finding by NASA regarding Eastern US forests. EG, ” [...]

  3. rayduray Says:

    Science Daily story:

    Weather Extremes Provoked by Trapping of Giant Waves in the Atmosphere

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130225153128.htm

    In brief:

    “The world has suffered from severe regional weather extremes in recent years, such as the heat wave in the United States in 2011 or the one in Russia 2010 coinciding with the unprecedented Pakistan flood. Behind these devastating individual events there is a common physical cause, propose scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). The study will be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and suggests that man-made climate change repeatedly disturbs the patterns of atmospheric flow around the globe’s Northern hemisphere through a subtle resonance mechanism.”


  4. [...] Stupid trees. Don't they know CO2 is plant food? NASA: NASA scientists report that warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation locally and regionally have altered the growth of large forest ar…  [...]


  5. [...] Peter’s original post here, which also covers the recent alarming finding by NASA regarding Eastern US forests. EG, ” [...]


  6. [...] NASA: Forest Canopy in Eastern US Impacted by Warming (climatecrocks.com) [...]


  7. [...] 2013/02/26: PSinclair: NASA: Forest Canopy in Eastern US Impacted by Warming [...]


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