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Solar dimming above temperate forests and its impact on local climate

Vegetation has a substantial impact on the local climate. Land cover changes through afforestation or deforestation can amplify or mitigate climate warming by changes in biophysical and biogeochemical mechanisms. In the montane to subalpine area of the Eastern Alps in Europe, where forests have constantly expanded in the last four decades, data of meteorological stations show a consistent reduction in incoming global radiation for the period 2000–2015. To assess the potential role of forests in contributing to such a reduction, three site pairs in Central Europe with neighbouring forest and non-forest sites were analysed. In all the pairs, a lower amount of incoming radiation was recorded at the forest site. When biophysical mechanisms such as albedo, surface roughness and Bowen ratio changes were modelled together with changes in global radiation, the total radiative forcing accounted for a rate of change in air temperature was equal to 0.032 °C±0.01° C perWm−2. These results suggest that local climate is influenced by land cover change through afforestation both via albedo and radiation feedbacks but also by means of indirect biophysical and species-dependent mechanisms. The data obtained for the site pairs in Central Europe are finally discussed to infer the occurrence of similar forest-driven effects in the Eastern Alps which may explain part of the solar dimming observed in high elevation weather stations.



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