The Effects of Reforestation on Temperature in the Southeast United States
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The Southeast United States has experienced suppressed warming compared with the rest of the country since the early part of the 20th century. This region has also undergone drastic land use/land cover changes – from depleted farmland in the 1920s to flourishing forest landscape in the 1960s. This study investigates reforestation in the Southeast U.S. as a probable influence on the Southeast “warming hole.” The region used encompasses the naturally forested areas of the southeastern U.S. and includes the portion of the Southeast that has experienced suppressed warming; the states or parts of states used are: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and East Texas. Historical forestland cover and temperature data for summer and winter seasons for the decades of the 1930s, 1960s, and 1990s were used. The decadal mean minimum and maximum temperature departures from normal are calculated for long-term stations with nearly-complete records. The decades are compared by plotting their reforestation fraction against their temperature change for June-August (JJA) maximum and minimum temperatures and December-February (DJF) maximum and minimum temperatures. The results showed that the 1930s-1960s was a time of cooling and experienced more cooling with more reforestation, and that the 1960s-1990s was a time of warming with no apparent reforestation effect. Statewide analyses were executed for summer and winter maximum and minimum temperatures as well. The minimum temperatures showed a stronger effect than its maximum counterpart, regardless of the time period. Overall, a majority of the states experienced more cooling (less warming) with more reforestation and less cooling (more warming) with less reforestation in most cases.
Blake, Jennifer (2015). The Effects of Reforestation on Temperature in the Southeast United States. Honors and Undergraduate Research. Available electronically from