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Plane gives fresh view of climate change

Scientists are taking to the air to assess the impact of the Earth’s coldest forests in alleviating climate change.

Researchers will fly across Finland to assess how much carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the boreal forest, a band of woodland as big as the Amazon rainforest which surrounds the Arctic Circle.

The two-person team from the University of Edinburgh will fly just above the forest canopy in the University’s own aeroplane.

Data capture

Sensors fitted to the plane’s wings will record data on how much CO2 is being absorbed by the trees’ leaves, and will acquire high-resolution images of the forest.

The flight path will mirror that of a Nasa satellite above, and data from both sources will be combined.

Results from the study by the University’s School of GeoSciences will help scientists better understand how effective the boreal forest is at storing CO2, and therefore at helping to curb the increase in atmospheric CO2.

In-depth study

Flying the fuel-efficient plane allows researchers to cover a larger area and obtain more accurate data than could be gathered by scientists on the ground.

Permission has been granted by the Finnish Aviation Authority for the low-altitude flights.

The collaborative project has been funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and carried out with the University of Helsinki and the Nasa Goddard Space Flight Centre.

Combining aircraft and satellite data will help give us a clearer picture of how much CO2 is being stored by the boreal forest, which plays a significant role in alleviating the impact of climate change.

Dr Caroline NicholSchool of Geosciences