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Know Your Planet: How do plants affect weather?

A major component of climate change unknowns stems from interactions between changes in climate and changes in ecosystems. This episode of the "Know Your Planet" video series from Stanford Earth Matters looks at how plants shape weather patterns and influence climate.

Vegetation can shape local and regional weather patterns and influence Earths climate. Photo credit iStock

How do plants affect weather?

Part of the Know Your Planet video series

The effects of an early frost, drenching rain, or prolonged drought can be seen in the leaves, blossoms, weeds and fruit all around us. Less obvious are the ways in which vegetation actively drives weather and climate patterns. In fact, research shows that plants can alter these patterns in some parts of the world by up to 30 percent. 

As scientists get better at pinpointing how this influence plays out in different regions and across different types of landcover – such as forests, crops, savannahs and cities – it could make it possible to improve weather forecasts weeks or even months in advance. It could also make it easier to anticipate the severity of droughts and heat waves in time to provide warnings and support to vulnerable populations and businesses.

But it’s not just about the weather. “A major component of climate change unknowns is this interaction between changes in climate and changes in ecosystems,” said hydrologist Alexandra Konings, an assistant professor of Earth system science in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Science (Stanford Earth).

In this episode of the "Know Your Planet" video series from Stanford Earth Matters, Konings guides us through some of the interactions that empower plants to shape local and regional weather patterns and influence Earth’s climate.


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Media Contacts

Josie Garthwaite
School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences
(650) 497-0947,

Alexandra Konings
School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences

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