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A greening world enhances the surface-air temperature difference

Feng, Huihui, Zou, Bin
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.658 pp. 385-394
normalized difference vegetation index, temperature, vegetation, water vapor
The surface-air temperature difference (Ts-Ta) is a critical variable for tracking climatic and environmental change. Vegetation has unavoidably affected the temperature by altering surface properties, while the magnitude of this effect has remained unknown. This study aimed to investigate the patterns of global Ts-Ta and quantify the contribution of vegetation change. Trend analysis, correlation analysis and a trajectory-based method were adopted for the investigation. The results demonstrated that the global Ts-Ta decreased by −0.140 K from 2001 to 2016. The greening trend covered 24.46% of the land and played a profound role in changing Ts-Ta. In particular, vegetation changes resulted in −0.0022 K, −0.0092 K and − 0.0043 K of the Ts-Ta decreases at the global, greening and browning levels, respectively accounting for 11.58%, 35.38% and 20.38% of the total decrease. Physically, vegetation influenced Ts-Ta mainly by altering atmospheric properties, rather than surface properties. Specifically, the greening of the surface reduced the albedo at a rate of −0.0003/year over 20% of the global land and enhanced atmospheric water vapor by 3 × 10−5 g/m3 over approximately 40% of the land. Meanwhile, the effect of vegetation change varied with coverage. A reduction in albedo caused by vegetation change occurred equally over different vegetated conditions, while the enhancement of atmospheric water vapor occurred mainly in sparsely (0.10 < NDVI < 0.30) and densely (0.55 < NDVI < 0.70) vegetated regions. Under these conditions, the vegetation change mainly affected Ts-Ta in sparsely vegetated regions (NDVI < 0.4). The results of this study are helpful for understanding the physical mechanism behind changes in global Ts-Ta and support climatic adaptation and environmental management.