Plantations in deserts can trigger cloud formation and precipitation.
Photo: ©Hohenheim University, Oliver Branch


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A new study by Hohenheim University in Germany shows that greening desert areas can significantly counter a climate crisis. This is why plantations can help compensate for CO2 emissions.

Good news at a time dominated by negative reports on human influence on the global system. “Large plantations, for example of jojoba plants, significantly increase the share of solar energy absorbed by the Earth’s surface,” explains earth system scientist Dr Oliver Branch at Hohenheim University in Stuttgart, Germany. “The plants largely release the energy in the form of heat to the immediate atmosphere,” the researcher continues. As a result, a warm low-pressure area forms in the desert a so called thermal or heat low. “The pressure differentials around the plantations create areas of rising air which can result in cloud formation and precipitation.”

The plantations can accordingly create rain in the desert, positively influencing the regional climate. “Naturally, we can only change the global climate when CO2 absorption reaches a global level,” comments Professor Volker Wulfmeyer, who co-supported the research project. “But in this way, we can at least influence the weather, and make living in arid and hot areas more tolerable for humans.”

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The strength of the effect depends on the region and season.

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