Making it rain with tree-planting

The mercury is rising each summer across Europe, making them drier and harder to bear. Dry summers raise the risks of wildfires and other natural disasters.

However, all is not lost and we don’t have to consign ourselves to dusty, fiery summers. The solution could come in the form of trees, or the process of simply planting more of them. That’s what a paper recently published in the Nature journal discovered, making a compelling argument for a regreening of our land to keep summers from burning out of control.

Turning up the heat

Climate change has different impacts on different parts of the planet, but one of the side-effects could be hotter, drier summers in parts of Europe. At present, during the hottest month of the summer, the UK basks under average temperatures of 21 degrees celsius. Anything around 30 degrees is considered a heat wave and starts to verge into record breaking territory.

Assuming a two-degree rise in global temperatures versus pre-industrial levels by 2050, the UK could experience temperatures during the hottest summer months which are six degrees hotter than present, meaning average temperatures closer to 27 degrees at the very least by mid-century.

Find it sticky and uncomfortable during a hot UK summer already? Hotter average temperatures make it less likely to allow rainfall and could make a summer in 2050 a whole lot harder to manage. Trees play an integral role in helping shape our climates, absorbing CO2 and capturing the carbon within themselves, helping lessen the impacts of climate change.

But a new finding suggests that more trees could give us cooler, wetter summers – how refreshing.

Thirst for rain

New findings published in the Nature journal suggest that tree-planting could boost rainfall in Europe, helping keep the continent from suffering a drier, dustier fate. By simply converting farmland into new forests, the article suggested rainfall could be boosted by 7.6 per cent.

While the precise reasons for more precipitation are unclear, it’s suggested that forests could generate more moisture in air, allowing more water to evaporate, creating water vapour which rises to form clouds. More cloud cover could yield more raindrops, quenching the thirsty soil, and giving European landscapes more respite from the unrelenting sun. The UK is well on the way towards embracing more tree planting initiatives, with the government attempting to ensure the planting of 30 million fresh trees per annum by 2025. In a country of almost 70 million people, we could ultimately find ourselves living in a greener, damper, cooler island, surrounded by potentially hundreds of millions of trees. We just need to become more green-fingered and think twice about cutting down the forests that populate our landscape, and if necessary, repopulate land with forests which were once considered arable.

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