Hotter Nights Have More Influence On Climate Change Than Thought

By on December 14, 2015

Researchers say that as climate change continues, hotter nights may lead to more carbon respiration from plants. (Credit: William Anderegg / Princeton Environmental Institute)


Although many studies have shown a gradual temperature increase all over the globe as a result of climate change, few studies have examined the effects of warming during different parts of the day. A release from Princeton University suggests that warmer temperatures at night have a much greater effect than an increase in daytime temperatures.

The underlying reason for time-of-day differences lies in plant metabolism: At night, plants respire, taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. Higher temperatures at night make plants respire faster, causing more carbon dioxide to be released into the air.

Since 1959, there has been a 0.6-degree increase in evening temperatures in the tropics, influencing the ability of plants to act as carbon sinks. In the past 55 years, carbon sink variability has increased by 50 to 100 percent. It was found via satellite and climate imaging that an increase in evening temperatures correlated with carbon sink variation better than factors such as drought, rainfall or daytime temperatures.

Top image: Researchers say that as climate change continues, hotter nights may lead to more carbon respiration from plants. (Credit: William Anderegg / Princeton Environmental Institute)

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