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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Arctic Greening Continues

Arctic Greening Continues

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

In a first continental scale study of its kind, researchers used three decades of remote sensing satellite data to map and track changes in vegetation cover across the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic. Covering more than 4 million square miles, 30% of the Arctic showed increases in  vegetation coverage (greening) compared with 3% of the area showing vegetation decreases (browning). Jeffrey Masek, the lead NASA researcher at the Goddard Space Center said:

"our study shows the direct impact of climate change on vegetation in the high Arctic".

Plants are very sensitive to environmental factors so they are excellent predictors of changes due to temperature, rainfall,  and atmospheric chemistry. NASA has been monitoring these factors via a suite of Earth monitoring satellites that have shown the Arctic is warming faster than almost anywhere else on Earth. The new temperature regimes have allowed longer growing seasons to develop, hence more green biomass is now visible. The Agency's researchers have observed grassy tundras becoming shrub lands and the shrubs have become larger and denser.

Satellite mapping continues to gather data to gain further insight into changing vegetation cover since such changes impact snow cover, tundra fires, carbon cycles, and wildlife populations. Expect the Arctic to become ever more green as global heating marches ever upwards. WHB

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