Greening Across the Arctic
Hugh Bollinger

Greening Across the Arctic

 Arctic Vegetation Map, 6-2-2016  (credit: Landsat)

In a first continental scale study of its kind, researchers used over three decades of Landsat remote sensing data to map and track vegetation changes in the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic regions. Covering more than 4 million square miles, 30% of the Arctic showed increases in vegetation coverage (greening) as compared to 3% that showed vegetation decreases (browning). Jeffrey Masek, the lead NASA researcher at the Goddard Space Center said: "the study shows the direct impact of climate change on vegetation in the high Arctic latitudes".

Plants are very sensitive to environmental qualities so they are excellent predictors of changes in temperature, rainfall,  and atmospheric chemistry. NASA has been monitoring temperatures via satellites and the Arctic is warming faster in the Arctic than almost anywhere else on Earth allowing for longer growing seasons. The Agency's researchers have observed grassy tundras becoming shrub lands, and shrubs becoming larger and denser. Such vegetation changes that could have impacts on regional snow cover, fires, and carbon cycles.

Expect the Arctic to continue becoming ever more green.


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