Quantifying the negative feedback of vegetation to greenhouse warming: A modeling approach

  • Bounoua L
  • Hall F
  • Sellers P
 et al. 
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Abstract

Several climate models indicate that in a 2 x CO2 environment, temperature and precipitation would increase and runoff would increase faster than precipitation. These models, however, did not allow the vegetation to increase its leaf density as a response to the physiological effects of increased CO2 and consequent changes in climate. Other assessments included these interactions but did not account for the vegetation down-regulation to reduce plant's photosynthetic activity and as such resulted in a weak vegetation negative response. When we combine these interactions in climate simulations with 2 x CO2, the associated increase in precipitation contributes primarily to increase evapotranspiration rather than surface runoff, consistent with observations, and results in an additional cooling effect not fully accounted for in previous simulations with elevated CO2. By accelerating the water cycle, this feedback slows but does not alleviate the projected warming, reducing the land surface warming by 0.6 C. Compared to previous studies, these results imply that long term negative feedback from CO2-induced increases in vegetation density could reduce temperature following a stabilization of CO2 concentration.

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