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Forests Emerge as a Major Overlooked Climate Factor

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Forests Emerge as a Major Overlooked Climate Factor

New work at the intersection of atmospheric science and ecology is finding that forests can influence rainfall and climate from across a continent.


5 min read
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Using powerful computer models, climatologist Abigail Swann explores the effects of forests on weather.

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Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Innovative
  • Scientific


Could a future Arctic landscape be covered by trees? Using powerful computer models, innovative climatologist Abigail Swann looked at that possibility while exploring the diverse global impacts forests exert upon Earth’s weather. Her results have shaken the world of skeptical climate scientists, where physical data and weather models typically rule. This dense but approachable article by journalist Gabriel Popkin aims to transform the landscape of perspectives on the role of plant ecosystems in climate change, and supports ecologists who claim that forests are essential to human life. The article will engage and inform anyone concerned with climate change and the sustainability of human life on earth.


Abigail Swann’s groundbreaking work stands out in an elite scientific community studying the effects of forests on climate.

Using sophisticated computer models rather than focusing exclusively on physical data, the University of Washington professor explores how a healthy forest (or the destruction of one) affects weather over vast distances. Her radical results are shaking the foundations of climate science.

Forests are powerful biological engines which create “flying rivers.”

Plants move water from ground to air, and carbon from air to ground. The...

About the Author

Gabriel Popkin is a freelance science and environmental writer.

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