Friday, November 23, 2007

Katrina may have accelerated global warming, Tulane researcher says

As if Hurricane Katrina's wind and water hadn't inflicted enough damage, a group of researchers led by a Tulane University biologist has found that the monster storm may well have accelerated global warming.

As Katrina roared through coastal forests in August 2005, it destroyed thousands of trees. As those trees decompose, the carbon they release will be enough to offset a year's worth of new tree growth elsewhere in the United States, said Jeffrey Chambers, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. The team's report has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

Forests are important adversaries of global warming because they remove carbon from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, thereby lowering the production of carbon dioxide. However, an increase in this compound warms the climate, resulting in more intense storms and, eventually, more trees that will decompose, the scientists found.