Predominant regional biophysical cooling from recent land cover changes in Europe
Journal article, Peer reviewed
MetadataShow full item record
Original versionNature Communications. 2020, 11 1-13. 10.1038/s41467-020-14890-0
Around 70 Mha of land cover changes (LCCs) occurred in Europe from 1992 to 2015. Despite LCCs being an important driver of regional climate variations, their temperature effects at a continental scale have not yet been assessed. Here, we integrate maps of historical LCCs with a regional climate model to investigate air temperature and humidity effects. We find an average temperature change of −0.12 ± 0.20 °C, with widespread cooling (up to −1.0 °C) in western and central Europe in summer and spring. At continental scale, the mean cooling is mainly correlated with agriculture abandonment (cropland-to-forest transitions), but a new approach based on ridge-regression decomposing the temperature change to the individual land transitions shows opposite responses to cropland losses and gains between western and eastern Europe. Effects of historical LCCs on European climate are non-negligible and region-specific, and ignoring land-climate biophysical interactions may lead to sub-optimal climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.