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(a) Percentage of windthrow following the passage of Klaus on 24 January 2009 (data: IGN). (b) Changes in seasonal dynamics of differences in cloud frequency (blue line) associated with Klaus (red vertical line) based on MSG-CPP and calculated as the average over forest (thick box in a covering area with maximum windthrow) minus the average over non-forest areas (two thin boxes in (a). Ten-day average differences were fitted with a squared sine with trend (thick black line). Shading indicates 95% confidence bounds for the fit.
Our findings have important implications for the evaluation of water and climate services provided by temperate forests in Europe21,32. The increase in cloud cover has the potential to locally offset the warming effect due to lower albedo16 and can lead to larger light and water use efficiency in forest ecosystems21. Our results also highlight the need to include indirect water cycle impacts when evaluating the impact of climate extremes such as cyclone Klaus on biogeochemical cycles and energy exchange28,33. Anecdotal evidence shows that forests can even act as a source region for deep convection, thereby possibly intensifying the hydrological cycle over land. Our study also contributes to an ongoing debate on the importance of land surface heterogeneity, either by land use or soil moisture, on clouds and precipitation15,27,34. Although our study focused on forests in absence of topography, we believe the mechanisms behind cloud cover enhancement will also play a role in the presence of a static lifting mechanism. However, as forest cover correlates spatially with topography26, disentangling these effects can no longer be done based on observations alone and will require a systematic modelling approach. Future research will have to learn whether convective cloud preference over forests is also associated with triggering of deep convection and increased rainfall. Possibly, the preference for clouds to form over forest can one day be exploited, to mitigate the local impacts of a warmer climate, in particular near urban areas.
How to cite this article: Teuling, A. J. et al. Observational evidence for cloud cover enhancement over western European forests. Nat. Commun. 8, 14065 doi: 10.1038/ncomms14065 (2017).
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