A fascinating new study suggests that plant aerosols can aid with slowing down climate change. As temperatures increase, the plants release aerosol particles into the atmosphere and these natural aerosols can fuel cloud formation, which may help cool a warming climate. The aerosols consist of sold or liquid matter that is suspended in air and most of these particles come from human activities. The smallest percentage of aerosols derive from plants and the plants release gases such as water vapor and oxygen. Those mix with other kinds of aerosols released from plants to form larger airborne particles that reflect sunlight and form cloud droplets.
Researchers collected data from 11 sites to measure the cooling effect. Their findings revealed that in warmer temperatures, plants emit more of the gases that stick to aerosol particles. That can lead to cloud formation and, as a result of cloud cover, cooler temperatures. Many researchers also believe that phytoplankton may help to cool the planet by reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and that in turn, cools the planet down. The article mentions that in some areas, “such as the forests of Finland and Canada, the cooling effect can be as large as 30 percent.” Still, aerosol effects on climate are one of the top uncertainties, but with this new data, researchers can understand the models better.