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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Arctic Greening

The Arctic is greening.

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, March 28, 2013/Categories: environment, climate change

As NASA reminds us: "Over the past three decades, temperatures have risen faster in the Arctic than anywhere else in the world." In the biological equivalent of a "blink of an eye", the Arctic is greening.

The changes have been recorded by decades of satellite imagery that now form the basis for "big data" vegetation maps showing the changes to plant communities across the far north. The response and alterations in the vegetation patterns and distribution are impressive.

The new polar map covers 10 million square miles where vegetated lands, designated in white, show increases of 40% in plant growth, which is colored in blue and green. Only 5% of the map show decreases in plant growth, in red and orange.

Changes in Arctic Plant Growth Rates, 1982-2012  (credit: Goddard Institute)

As Compton Tucker, one of the Goddard co-authors, said: "It's like Winnipeg, Manitoba, moving to Minneapolis-Saint Paul in only 30 years"

The arctic isn't just tundra and taiga (boreal forests) but also vast mountain ranges in Alaska, Russia, and Mongolia. A photograph captured by Russian scientists from Tomsk State University, the oldest university in Siberia, who were doing research on receding glaciers in the Altai Mountains shows plant cover changes from a ground-based perspective. The arctic can be seen almost greening in real time as the trees move up the recently de-glaciated valley.

Forest Development in De-glaciated Altai Mountains (Tomsk State University)

The greening of the Arctic is in full swing.



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