Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Xuhui Lee; Michael L. Goulden; David Y. Hollinger; Alan Barr; T. Andrew Black; Gil Bohrer; Rosvel Bracho; Bert Drake; Allen Goldstein; Lianhong Gu; Gabriel Katul; Thomas Kolb; Beverly E. Law; Hank Margolis; Tilden Meyers; Russell Monson; William Munger; Ram Oren; Kyaw Tha Paw U; Andrew D. Richardson; Hans Peter Schmid; Ralf Staebler; Steven Wofsy; Lei Zhao
    Date: 2011
    Source: Nature. 479: 384-387.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Northern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (225.44 KB)


    Deforestation in mid- to high latitudes is hypothesized to have the potential to cool the Earth's surface by altering biophysical processes. In climate models of continental-scale land clearing, the cooling is triggered by increases in surface albedo and is reinforced by a land albedo–sea ice feedback. This feedback is crucial in the model predictions; without it other biophysical processes may overwhelm the albedo effect to generate warming instead. Ongoing land-use activities, such as land management for climate mitigation, are occurring at local scales (hectares) presumably too small to generate the feedback, and it is not known whether the intrinsic biophysical mechanism on its own can change the surface temperature in a consistent manner. Nor has the effect of deforestation on climate been demonstrated over large areas from direct observations. Here we show that surface air temperature is lower in open land than in nearby forested land. The effect is 0.85±0.44 K (mean ± one standard deviation) northwards of 45°N and 0.21±0.53 K southwards. Below 35°N there is weak evidence that deforestation leads to warming. Results are based on comparisons of temperature at forested eddy covariance towers in the USA and Canada and, as a proxy for small areas of cleared land, nearby surface weather stations. Night-time temperature changes unrelated to changes in surface albedo are an important contributor to the overall cooling effect. The observed latitudinal dependence is consistent with theoretical expectation of changes in energy loss from convection and radiation across latitudes in both the daytime and night-time phase of the diurnal cycle, the latter of which remains uncertain in climate models.

    Publication Notes

    • Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
    • Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
    • During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
    • Please contact Sharon Hobrla, if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Lee, Xuhui; Goulden, Michael L.; Hollinger, David Y.; Barr, Alan; Black, T. Andrew; Bohrer, Gil; Bracho, Rosvel; Drake, Bert; Goldstein, Allen; Gu, Lianhong; Katul, Gabriel; Kolb, Thomas; Law, Beverly E.; Margolis, Hank; Meyers, Tilden; Monson, Russell; Munger, William; Oren, Ram; Paw U, Kyaw Tha; Richardson, Andrew D.; Schmid,Hans Peter; Staebler, Ralf; Wofsy, Steven; Zhao, Lei. 2011. Observed increase in local cooling effect of deforestation at higher latitudes. Nature. 479: 384-387.


    Google Scholar

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page