Global warming will bring a "greening" explosion to the Arctic in the next few decades, bringing repercussions to ecosystems worldwide and creating feedback loops that will likely cause more global warming than predicted, according to a new study.
In their study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change, the team of scientists write that wooded areas in the Arctic could increase by 52% by the 2050s, and warming temperatures will shift vegetation zones further and further north.
"Such widespread redistribution of Arctic vegetation would have impacts that reverberate through the global ecosystem," Richard Pearson, lead author on the paper and a research scientist at the American Museum of Natural History's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, said in a statement.
"These impacts would extend far beyond the Arctic region," Pearson stated. "For example, some species of birds seasonally migrate from lower latitudes and rely on finding particular polar habitats, such as open space for ground-nesting."
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The Smithsonian's Surprising Science blog explains how the "greening" will create a vicious warming cycle:
Most troubling, the conversion of white, snow-covered land to dark vegetation will further affect the warming of the planet. Because darker colors absorb more radiation than the white of ice and snow, shifting large masses of land to a darker color is projected to further accelerate warming, creating a positive feedback loop: more warming leads to a greener Arctic, which leads to more warming.