NASA scientists used almost 30 years of data from the NASA/U.S. Geological Survey Landsat satellites to track changes in vegetation in Alaska and Canada. Of the more than 4 million square miles, 30 percent had increases in vegetation (greening) while only 3 percent had decreases (browning).
This is the first study to produce a continent-scale map while still providing detailed information at the human scale. "It shows the climate impact on vegetation in the high latitudes," said Jeffrey Masek, a researcher who worked on the study and the Landsat 9 project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The study, led by NASA scientist Junchang Ju, is online here
Temperatures are warming faster in the Arctic than elsewhere, which has led to longer seasons for plants to grow in and changes to the soils. Scientists have observed grassy tundras changing to shrublands, and shrubs growing bigger and denser – changes that could have impacts on regional water, energy, and carbon cycles. With the large, continental-scale map complete, researchers will focus on the more human scale – looking at local conditions to see what might control the greening patterns, whether it's local topography, nearby water sources, or particular types of habitat. They also plan to investigate forested areas, particularly in the greening Quebec.More information
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Matthew Radcliff
Music: "Alaska," by Janik Riegert [GEMA], Josh Tapen [GEMA]
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