Climate Change Makes North American Arctic Greener

First Posted: Jun 08, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

According to a NASA study, which covers the period 1984 to 2012, there is a wide range of greening in the tundra of Western Alaska, tundra of Quebec and Labrador and the northern coast of Canada. Their discovery was based from 87, 000 images that were taken from Landsat satellites.

The temperatures in the Artic are rapidly warming. This indicated longer seasons for plants to grow in and changes to the soils. The researchers also observed that the grassy tundra is changing to shrublands. These shrubs are growing bigger and denser. This is probably due to changes that could have effects on regional water, energy and carbon cycles, according to NASAJeffrey Masek, the Landsat 9 project scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and one of the researchers of the study said that it shows the climate impact on vegetation in the high latitudes.

Landsat is a program of NASA and U.S. Geological Survey for the acquisition of satellite imagery of Earth. This involves stipulating the longest continuous spaced-based record of Earth's land vegetation in existence.The Landsat can obtain millions of images. Its application includes forestry, agriculture, cartography, regional planning, geology, education and surveillance. These can be viewed on the USGS "Earth Explorer" website.

The Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 have provided data wherein the researchers discovered the extensive greening in the northern coast of Canada, the tundra of Quebec and Labrador and the tundra of Western Alaska. They also discovered that 29.4 percent of the region became greener, particularly in the shrub lands and sparsely vegetated areas. On the other hand, there is about 2.9 percent that showed vegetation decline.

Junchang Ju, who also worked with Masek on the study and a remote scientist at Goddard, said that they can see more detail with Landsat and they can see the trend more reliably. The researchers can actually see the areas that are covered in water, vegetation changes or burned areas. In a more detailed look, they can also perceive if a correlation exists between habitat characteristics and greening or browning trends. Masek further said that with Landsat, you can do detailed studies of how climate impacts vary with geography.


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