Can crop albedo be increased through the modification of leaf trichomes, and could this cool regional climate?

Christopher E. Doughty, Christopher B. Field, Andrew M.S. McMillan

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Managing the land surface to increase albedo to offset regional warming has received less attention than managing the land surface to sequester carbon. We test whether increasing agricultural albedo can cool regional climate. We first used the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM 3.0) coupled to the Community Land Model (CLM 3.0) to assess the broad climatic effects of a hypothetical implementation of a strategy in which the albedo of cropland regions is increased using high albedo crops. Simulations indicate that planting brighter crops can decrease summertime maximum daily 2 m air temperature by 0.25°C per 0.01 increase in surface albedo at high latitudes (>30°). However, planting brighter crops at low latitudes (<30°) may have negative repercussions including warming the land surface and decreasing precipitation, because increasing the land surface albedo tends to preferentially decrease latent heat fluxes to the atmosphere, which decreases cloud cover and rainfall. We then test a possible method for increasing crop albedo by measuring the range of albedo within 16 isolines of soybeans that differ only with trichome color, orientation, and density but find that such modifications had only minor impacts on leaf albedo. Increasing agricultural albedo may cool high latitude regional climate, but increasing plant albedo sufficiently to offset potential future warming will require larger changes to plant albedo than are currently available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-387
Number of pages9
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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