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Land Cover Changes Affect Climate

Some places are full of forest trees. Other places have grasslands, farms, or deserts. These are all types of land covers. New research suggests that if the land cover changes, the climate may change as well.

Scientists studying land cover made a computer model to help them with their research. The model examines changes in the types of plants in the United States for almost 300 years. The scientists found that changes in land cover have caused changes in temperature and precipitation.

Land cover changes have caused cooling of more than one degree Fahrenheit in parts of the central U.S. Farms replacing grasslands caused the cooling. Farmlands tend to create lower temperatures because of more evaporation.

A warming effect was found along the Atlantic coast of the United States. There, people have cut down forests and planted crops over the past few centuries. Compared to forests, croplands are less able to evaporate water from their leaves, which cools the air.

Land cover changes can also have some impact on the amount of summer rain. Cooling temperatures over the central U.S. have probably caused more rainfall in Texas and less rain in the central U.S.

"It is important to understand the effects of changing land cover,” said scientist Somnath Baidya Roy, stressing that changes in land cover can add to, or reduce, the effects of global warming.