Potential and Actual impacts of deforestation and afforestation on land surface temperature

Printer-friendly versionPDF version
Dec 22, 2016
Yan Li, Maosheng Zhao, David J. Mildrexler, Safa Motesharrei, Qiaozhen Mu, Eugenia Kalnay, Fang Zhao, Shuangcheng Li, and Kaicun Wang



Forests are undergoing significant changes throughout the globe. These changes can modify water, energy, and carbon balance of the land surface, which can ultimately affect climate. We utilize satellite data to quantify the potential and actual impacts of forest change on land surface temperature (LST) from 2003 to 2013. The potential effect of forest change on temperature is calculated by the LST difference between forest and nearby nonforest land, whereas the actual impact on temperature is quantified by the LST trend difference between deforested (afforested) and nearby unchanged forest (nonforest land) over several years. The good agreement found between potential and actual impacts both at annual and seasonal levels indicates that forest change can have detectable impacts on surface temperature trends. That impact, however, is different for maximum and minimum temperatures. Overall, deforestation caused a significant warming up to 0.28 K/decade on average temperature trends in tropical regions, a cooling up to −0.55 K/decade in boreal regions, a weak impact in the northern temperate regions, and strong warming (up to 0.32 K/decade) in the southern temperate regions. Afforestation induced an opposite impact on temperature trends. The magnitude of the estimated temperature impacts depends on both the threshold and the data set (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer and Landsat) by which forest cover change is defined. Such a latitudinal pattern in temperature impact is mainly caused by the competing effects of albedo and evapotranspiration on temperature. The methodology developed here can be used to evaluate the temperature change induced by forest cover change around the globe.

DOI for citing: 
Share: Facebook Icon Twitter Icon Linked Icon