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It's been largely accepted that big forests around the world, such as the Amazon in Brazil and the boreal forests in Russia, create rain.
Russian theorist, Anastassia Makarieva of the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, has proposed a controversial theory that forests also produce wind. Many peers reject her proposal, creating an interesting conversation.
Science first reported the news.
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How Russia's forest regulates northern Asia's climate
Makarieva, who worked alongside Victor Gorshkov, has been working on her forest theory for a decade. Their theory explains how Russia's boreal forests, the largest expanse of trees on the planet, regulate the climate in northern Asia.
It's simple in essence: water vapor exhaled by trees drives winds. These winds cross the continent moving down to northern China and Mongolia, delivering rain to the regions and keep the massive rivers of eastern Siberia flowing.
"Forests are complex self-sustaining rainmaking systems, and the major driver of atmospheric circulation on Earth," Makarieva said.
According to her research, air moisture is recycled into the air thanks to large forests, and as this happens winds are created that then push that water around the world. Makarieva calls the second process, the wind process, the biotic pump.
Why is the theory controversial?
Climate modelers are the first to jump on the critiquing band wagon of the biotic pump theory, many of which dismiss the idea completely or believe the effects are questionable.
That said, if the theory is indeed correct, it would help explain how remote inland forested continents receive as much rain as coastal regions, even though they are leagues way from the ocean or the sea. Furthermore, it would also explain why the interiors of unforested zones are typically arid.
Those who do agree, like Douglas Sheil, a forest ecologist at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, explain its importance "Even if we thought the theory had only a small chance of being true, it would be profoundly important to know one way or the other."
Given our rainforests and forests are being deforested at a much higher rate than before, theories such as Makarieva's could help in the push back to these actions continuing. It could add to the fight to save the forests and rainforests.