Show Details

Katrina Carbon

December 19, 2007

By killing millions of trees, Hurricane Katrina and future storms may worsen global warming.


Katrina’s carbon footprint. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

According to a new study, Hurricane Katrina killed or severely damaged about 320 million trees. And it’s not just the scenery that’s affected. Tulane University biologist Jeffrey Chambers explains that every year, the net growth of trees in America soaks up 100 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere – carbon that would otherwise accelerate global warming.

JEFFREY CHAMBERS (Tulane University):
A single storm – caused the death and structural damage of enough trees to offset that net sink.

That’s because dead trees not only don’t soak up carbon; they actually release it as they decompose. And because global warming is expected to provoke more violent storms, Chambers says we may get caught in a vicious cycle, in which the storms worsens global warming, which in turn causes more storms. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.