Thursday, November 26, 2009

Potential impact of U.S. biofuels on regional climate

Recently, I came across this nice article published in JGR, which talks about impact of using biofuels on regional climate in the United States. The debate on using biofuels for future energy needs is on.

Abstract reads as

Recent work has shown that current bio-energy policy directives may have harmful, indirect consequences, affecting both food security and the global climate system. An additional unintended but direct effect of large-scale biofuel production is the impact on local and regional climate resulting from changes in the energy and moisture balance of the surface upon conversion to biofuel crops. Using the latest version of the WRF modeling system we conducted twenty-four, midsummer, continental-wide, sensitivity experiments by imposing realistic biophysical parameter limits appropriate for bio-energy crops in the Corn Belt of the United States. In the absence of strain/crop-specific parameterizations, a primary goal of this work was to isolate the maximum regional climate impact, for a trio of individual July months, due to land-use change resulting from bio-energy crops and to identify the relative importance of each biophysical parameter in terms of its individual effect. Maximum, local changes in 2 m temperature of the order of 1°C occur for the full breadth of albedo (ALB), minimum canopy resistance (RCMIN), and rooting depth (ROOT) specifications, while the regionally (105°W–75°W and 35°N–50°N) and monthly averaged response of 2 m temperature was most pronounced for the ALB and RCMIN experiments, exceeding 0.2°C. The full range of albedo variability associated with biofuel crops may be sufficient to drive regional changes in summertime rainfall. Individual parameter effects on 2 m temperature are additive, highlight the cooling contribution of higher leaf area index (LAI) and ROOT for perennial grasses (e.g., Miscanthus) versus annual crops (e.g., maize), and underscore the necessity of improving location- and vegetation-specific representation of RCMIN and ALB”

Complete Reference

Georgescu, M., D. B. Lobell, and C. B. Field (2009), Potential impact of U.S. biofuels on regional climate, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L21806, doi:10.1029/2009GL040477.

Read about different aspects of biofuels

1 comment:

Gail said...

Hi, you might be interested to know that some atmospheric toxin or combination of toxins is killing vegetation at an accelerating rate on the East Coast of the US and quite possibly elsewhere. Cumulative ozone has been detrimental for decades but the last couple of years the cascade of damage to trees is frightful. Annual and aquatic foliage also showed symptoms of atmospheric poisoning this summer.

I suspect the recent surge in damage is due to massive quantities of nitrogen-based fertilizer for growing corn for ethanol, and/or ethanol emissions. See this blogpost for a Stanford study released yesterday and this post for background:

If we don't stop burning fuel we are going to have widespread crop failure and famine right here in the good old US of A.

I really hope some scientific researchers will take this seriously before it's too late to recover our trees.