27 Feb 2014:
Pine Forest Aerosols Play
Significant Role in Climate, Study Says
Claudia Mohr, UW
Scientists studied Finland's Hyytiälä pine forest
Pine forest vapors form small aerosol particles that may significantly cool the climate by reflecting the sun's energy back into space, according to new findings
. Scientists have known for decades that gases from pine trees can form particles that grow from just 1 nanometer in diameter to 100 nanometers in about a day. The new research, published in Nature
, shows the rapid growth of these particles relies on a chemical chain reaction among pine-scented molecules and atmospheric ozone and oxygen. The growing particle then grabs others like it, eventually snowballing into a 100-nanometer particle — one that's large enough to condense water vapor, prompt cloud formation, and, ultimately, influence climate. Boreal or pine forests give off the largest amount of these compounds, so the finding is especially relevant for the northern parts of North America, Europe, and Russia. But other types of forests emit similar vapors, and the scientists think these may undergo similar rapid chemical reactions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified aerosols generally as one of the biggest unknowns for climate change. "I think a lot of missing puzzle pieces in atmospheric chemistry will start to fall into place once we incorporate this understanding," the lead researcher said.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
The 2015 Yale e360 Video Contest winner documents a Northeastern town's bitter battle over a wind farm. Watch the video.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
A 2015 Yale e360 Video Contest winner captures stunning images of wild salmon runs in Alaska. Watch the video.
video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs. Watch the video.
A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.
video goes onto the front lines with Colorado firefighters confronting deadly blazes fueled by a hotter, drier climate. Watch the video.