When pine bark beetles kill trees, scientists believe they may also alter local weather patterns and air quality. For the next four years researchers will study forests from southern Wyoming to northern New Mexico to determine the precise relationship between the beetles, the trees they kill and the atmosphere.
A new international field project, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, is exploring how trees killed by the beetles influence rainfall, temperatures, smog and other aspects of the atmosphere.
"Forests help control the atmosphere, and there's a big difference between the impacts of a living forest and a dead forest," says NCAR scientist Alex Guenther, a principal investigator on the project. "With a dead forest, we may get different rainfall patterns, for example."