A study published online Monday from the University of Alberta found Arctic tundra is much more resilient to global warming than scientists often argue.
Instead of amplifying warming effects as previously feared, the study found that a rising number of shrubs in the tundra will cause the region to absorb 40 percent less energy, modestly slowing global warming.
“The worry was that as the tundra warmed and increased in shrub vegetation, it would absorb more solar radiation, which would cause more warming,” Dr. Scott Williamson, the lead author of the study, said in a press release. “But what we have found is that this solar energy was increasingly reflected by shrubs during the growing season as canopies became denser.”
The study determined that melting snow and ice in the arctic and tundra will not create a self-sustaining feedback loop that would make global warming much worse. The idea that even small temperature increases could lead to a dangerous feedback loop, which would cause severe global warming, had been a key worry of The Sierra Club and other environmental groups. The study mitigates green concerns that the increased shrub growth over the next few decades would absorb more solar radiation and trigger feedback loops which would cause huge temperature increases.