Sunday, April 10, 2011

Grassing Over Cornfields Could Reduce Surface Temperatures

New research from Stanford University shows that planting grasses and other perennial plants in the place of corn, soybeans, and other annual (cash crop) species in California and surrounding states would not only help mitigate man-made climate change, but would also result in lower ground temperatures, at least locally.

“We’ve shown that planting perennial bioenergy crops can lower surface temperatures by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit [1°C] locally, averaged over the entire growing season,” said scientist David Lobel, “That's a pretty big effect, enough to dominate any effects of carbon savings on the regional climate.”

Perennial plants such as switchgrass release much more water vapor into the air on a yearly basis than do crops like corn. Water vapor helps cool surface temperature. “Locally, the simulated cooling is sufficiently large to partially offset projected warming due to increasing greenhouse gases over the next few decades,” the authors write in their paper published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In a related study, Lobel and other researchers found that corn and maize crops are more susceptible to small increases in climactic temperature than had been previously thought.

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