New research techniques are being adopted by scientists tackling the most visible impact of climate change — the so-called greening of Arctic regions.
The latest drone and satellite technology is helping an international team of researchers to better understand how the vast, treeless regions called the tundra is becoming greener.
As Arctic summer temperatures warm, plants are responding. Snow is melting earlier and plants are coming into leaf sooner in spring. Tundra vegetation is spreading into new areas and where plants were already growing, they are now growing taller.
Understanding how data captured from the air compare with observations made on the ground will help to build the clearest picture yet of how the northern regions of Europe, Asia and North America are changing as the temperature rises.
Now a team of 40 scientists from 36 institutions, led by two National Geographic Explorers, have revealed that the causes of this greening process are more complex — and variable — than was previously thought.
Researchers from Europe and North America are finding that the Arctic greening observed from space is caused by more than just the responses of tundra plants to warming on the ground. Satellites are also capturing other changes including differences in the timing of snowmelt and the wetness of landscapes.
Lead author Dr Isla Myers-Smith, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “New technologies including sensors on drones, planes and satellites, are enabling scientists to track emerging patterns of greening found within satellite pixels that cover the size of football fields.”
Read more at University of Edinburgh