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Snow maps reveal shifts in spring and carbon dioxide uptake

Daily snow cover maps of the northern hemisphere show that spring plant growth has shifted 8 days earlier on average, over 36 years. As a result of rising global temperatures, the melting of seasonal snow cover is happening earlier in spring. However, the response of the surrounding boreal forests has been to increase their uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthetic activity. As the boreal forests play an important role in the carbon cycle (as a carbon sink on land), it is important that the implications of the relationship between snow cover, springtime photosynthetic activity and carbon uptake is characterised accurately. Data and information on the latter, derived with the help of combining satellite and ground-based observations, can then be used to improve climate models and the accuracy of their predictions on global warming.

It is hoped that improvements to the satellite-based record of observations on global snow cover, such as that intended by the new CCI project on Snow (due to start in the first quarter of next year), will provide vital contributions to this work.

For more information, please see ESA's news item (click here for link).