by Bill Laurence
Thinking about knocking down a few trees in the backyard? Think again. Felling even a handful of trees can change the local climate, according to a new study.
It’s been known for some time that clearing forests can have regional-scale impacts on climate by reducing evapotranspiration (the emission of water vapor by plants, which cools the land) and changing albedo (how much solar radiation gets reflected away from the ground surface).
But now it appears these effects happen at surprisingly small scales. Especially in warmer parts of the world, clearing even a football field-sized area is enough to provoke significant heating of the immediate area.
That’s an important insight. Folks living in tropical and subtropical areas often complain that deforested lands are unpleasantly warm, less productive for farming, and more prone to harboring diseases.
So, spread the word: Cutting down trees doesn’t just have a global impact, by increasing carbon emissions; or a regional impact, by changing evapotranspiration and albedo.
Killing trees also has a sizable local impact, meaning it directly affects the quality of life of those living nearby.