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Gone for Good? Classifying Drivers of Global Forest Loss

September 17, 2018
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin, 301-405-1733 

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- New research from the University of Maryland Department of Geographical Sciences reveals that more than a quarter of the forests lost around the world in the last 15 years are gone for good. Without significant changes to land management policies and corporate supply chains, the rate of commodity-driven deforestation is not likely to decline in the future. 

Alongside colleagues from the University of Arkansas-based Sustainability Consortium and the World Resources Institute, UMD researchers used satellite imagery to develop a forest loss classification model and assign a driver of forest loss for each 10x10 km parcel of land globally between 2001 and 2015. Their findings, published September 14 in Science, show that 27 percent of global forest loss can be attributed to permanent land use conversion for the production of commodities such as palm oil, mining or energy infrastructure. Urbanization is another form of semi-permanent forest conversion, but it was estimated to account for less than 1 percent of global forest loss. The remainder of the forests were lost to things like shifting cultivation, forestry and wildfire—scenarios in which eventual forest regrowth remains possible. 

“It’s important to note that not all forest loss is necessarily permanent,” said Alexandra Tyukavina, a post-doctoral associate with the UMD Department of Geographical Sciences and a co-author on the study. “However, our work reveals the stark reality that more than a quarter of the forests lost in the last 15 years or so represent deforestation—meaning they are not re-growing any time soon.”

Results also indicate that, despite recent commitments from nearly 450 companies worldwide to end deforestation in their supply chains by 2020, the rate of commodity-driven deforestation did not decline between 2001 and 2015.

“Our findings clearly show that policies designed to achieve zero-deforestation commitments are not being adopted or implemented at the pace necessary to meet 2020 goals,” said UMD Geographical Sciences Professor Matt Hansen, a co-author in the research. “However, we hope our analysis can help international policymakers better understand what is creating changes to forest cover around the world so that we can stop or, at the very least, slow the loss of ecologically important forests in the future.”

The research team is currently working on a more detailed map of forest disturbance drivers to provide better analysis at the national, regional and local levels.

Maryland Alumnus Gives $1M to Support Innovative Business Teaching

September 14, 2018

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Sept. 12, 2018) – Students and faculty at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business will benefit from a new $1 million gift from longtime benefactor Allen J. Krowe ’54. Krowe’s funding will be used to expand the Office of Transformational Learning to support excellence in teaching and learning. The gift supports Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland, UMD’s $1.5 billion fundraising campaign focused on elevating and expanding the university’s mission of service, enhancing academic distinction and bolstering UMD’s leading-edge research enterprise.

headshot of kroweKrowe credits the education he received at Maryland for propelling his career at IBM and Texaco to senior executive responsibilities and board service. Now he hopes the gift will bolster Maryland Smith’s business education for the next generation of leaders with innovative course design and learning experiences.

The Office of Transformational Learning is the engine behind Smith’s experiential learning initiatives. The office works with alumni, employers, startups and nonprofit organizations to create meaningful learning opportunities for students, and Krowe’s gift supports expanding those opportunities. The office also helps faculty explore and adopt innovative teaching technologies. Krowe’s support will enable the development of courses that blend real-time interactions among students and instructors with well-designed content and tools that students can use online, anytime and anywhere. 

Krowe’s latest gift follows his decades of support for faculty and the university. His initial gift in 1986 to Maryland Smith established the Allen J. Krowe Award for Teaching Excellence, the university’s first-of-its-kind recognition program to celebrate and reward instructional excellence. Each year, top faculty members are honored for the work they do in the classroom. Since its inception, more than 150 instructors have been recognized.

“When I finished at Maryland and went to work in the business world, I realized the powerful strength of my education that came from the quality of my instructors,” Krowe said. “The business school at Maryland did a tremendous job of educating me. I gave back by starting the teaching awards to allow teachers to be annually recognized as outstanding instructors. That’s been very rewarding.” 

The native of Deltaville, Va., remembers his time at the university fondly, as an avid sports fan, Air Force ROTC member, saxophone player, and sometimes fraternity prankster. 

“I never forgot the benefit I gained by spending four years in the business school,” Krowe said. “It enabled me to compete with anyone I encountered in the financial world.”

After graduating and serving a stint as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, Krowe began his career as a certified public accountant at Touche, Niven, Bailey & Smart. In 1960 he joined IBM in the Federal Systems Division and worked his way up to be elected as IBM Corporate chief financial officer in 1982. He was then elected IBM executive vice president and a member of the board.

In 1988 he was recruited by Texaco to be senior vice president and CFO. He became vice chairman of the petroleum company in 1993 and retired in 1997.

Since establishing the teaching award program, Krowe has remained actively involved at Maryland. Krowe received the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1986 and was named the business school’s alumnus of the year in 1988. He has volunteered his time as a fundraiser for the university, chairing the first University of Maryland Systemwide fundraising campaign, which secured $260 million in donations from private funds for the public university between 1988 and 1993.  

“Having a chance to give back, and in so doing, be a small part of the extraordinary growth and excellence of the Smith School has meant a great deal to me,” he said. “I believe that each one of us should replenish those resources from which we have personally benefited.”

About the Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community.

 

University of Maryland, Governor Hogan Announce Grant to Support the Development of a New Maryland Crime Research and Innovation Center

September 14, 2018
Contacts: 

Elise Carbonaro Kim, 301-405-6501

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The University of Maryland (UMD) has received a $500,000 grant from the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention (GOCCP) to support the development of a new Maryland Crime Research and Innovation Center. UMD will lead the effort and will partner with University System of Maryland (USM) institutions to engage interdisciplinary capabilities, in coordination with resources offered by industry and state partners, to support the establishment of a knowledge and research center to help the state’s crime control and prevention efforts. The initiative will benefit from the state’s collective talent and expertise to conduct interdisciplinary research and to help inform state policies and programs. 

Through these collaborative efforts, the Center will:

  • Work to identify threats, develop innovative, outcome-based solutions aimed at combatting violent crime, and evaluate progress;
  • Examine criminal justice issues related to human trafficking, firearms trafficking, drug trafficking, as well as gangs;
  • Bring together resources, research experts, thought leaders, and industry innovations to tackle the complex social issues that underlie violent crime in Maryland;
  • Conduct research to inform pilot tests of promising crime prevention interventions, with the ultimate goal of informing statewide policy; and
  • Employ data and analysis of data to develop law enforcement solutions, victim services, prevention efforts, and criminal justice programs that reduce violent crime and improve quality of life for Maryland residents.

"We are excited to contribute our collective research expertise to support this initiative, which we believe will help positively impact safety, security, and quality of life for Maryland residents," said UMD Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. 

The year-long initiative will be led by the School of Public Policy’s Dawn Pulliam, project director and principal investigator, and William Lucyshyn, co-principal investigator, in partnership with faculty experts from the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, the Robert H. Smith School of Business, the School of Public Health, the A. James Clark School of Engineering, the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, and the College of Information Studies, as well as a liaison from the GOCCP. 

“The safety and security of the citizens of Maryland requires a team approach,” said V. Glenn Fueston, Jr., Executive Director of GOCCP. “Everything we do must be centered around identifying the roots of violent crime and finding solutions that focus on prevention, enforcement, and victims services. We look forward to engaging the academic expertise across Maryland’s university system, while partnering with stakeholders, to ensure that we have the benefit of the best talent across the state working together to make Maryland the best state in which to live, work and raise a family.”

About the University of Maryland

The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 38,000 students, 9,000 faculty and staff, and 250 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The University of Maryland Safe Center for Human Trafficking Survivors, a joint MPowering the State initiative between the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, helps prevent human trafficking and serves survivors through research and policy advocacy. UMD’s Department of Criminology, ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.

About the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention

The Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention serves as a coordinating office that advises the Governor on criminal justice strategies. The office plans, promotes, and funds efforts with government entities, private organizations, and the community to advance public policy, enhance public safety, reduce crime and juvenile delinquency, and serve victims. For more information about GOCCP, visit goccp.maryland.gov.

 

UMD to Memorialize Capital Gazette Shooting Victims

September 14, 2018
Contacts: 

Alexander Pyles, 301-405-2399

COLLEGE PARK, Md.--The University of Maryland announced today plans to honor the five victims in June’s mass shooting in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Md.

UMD’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism will rename an executive seminar room in Knight Hall as an on-campus memorial for UMD alumni John McNamara, ’83 and Gerald Fischman,’79, UMD adjunct professor Rob Hiaasen, and their colleagues Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. A dedication ceremony, co-hosted with The Diamondback student newspaper, will take place in December. Merrill College will also create writing competitions in memory of Fischman and McNamara, as well as a teaching award in memory of Hiaasen.

"These people served their community by practicing and supporting journalism," said Lucy A. Dalglish, dean of Merrill College. "We hope these remembrances will be a consistent reminder of their example, and that their memory inspires others to seek truth and do good."

Maryland Athletics will pay tribute to McNamara, a sports reporter who covered Terps football and basketball for two decades, with a moment of silence in the press box before this Saturday’s home football game. A press seat will be dedicated in memory of McNamara with a permanent placard in the press box at both Maryland Stadium and XFINITY Center. 

“From his time as a young reporter for The Diamondback, John dedicated much of his life to reporting news and sharing stories of our student-athletes, coaches and programs at Maryland,” director of athletics Damon Evans said. “John was a part of so many special moments in our history and created many personal moments of his own in College Park. The seats dedicated in his honor at both XFINITY Center and Maryland Stadium will serve as a constant reminder to the dedication and passion he had for Maryland and sports journalism."      

McNamara first started covering the Terps as a student reporter for The Diamondback. He wrote a 2001 book with Dave Eflin on UMD men’s basketball, then in 2009 wrote another on Terps football.

Fischman, who also worked for The Diamondback, was an award-winning editorial writer who began working at the Capital Gazette newsroom in 1992.

Hiaasen, who taught news writing and reporting in Spring 2018 at Merrill College and was scheduled to do so again this fall, started working at The Capital in 2010 after 15 years as a feature writer at The Baltimore Sun. 

Wendi Winters, a features writer, started out as a freelancer at The Capital nearly 20 years ago and Rebecca Smith was hired as a sales assistant for the publication. 

 

UMD Alumna Jean E. Lokerson Bequeaths $1.75M to Support Scholarships for Education Students

September 13, 2018
Contacts: 

Audrey Hill, 301-405-3468

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has received a $1.75 million estate gift from alumna Jean E. Lokerson Ph.D. ’70 to support student scholarships in the College of Education. The John T. and Dorothy E. Lokerson Endowed Scholarship in Education—named in honor of Lokerson’s parents who encouraged her to pursue a career in education—provides merit and need-based student scholarships toward tuition and fees that are equivalent to two years of full-time upper-level undergraduate or graduate study.

Headshot of Lokerson“This remarkable gift will help students excel in their academic pursuits and ensure that the College can attract the most talented students,” said Jennifer K. Rice, dean of the College of Education. “Dr. Lokerson’s passion for the field of education and for teaching teachers is reflected in this endowed scholarship, which will help transform students’ experiences and enhance our research and instruction through the contributions of the best and brightest students.”

The gift supports Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland, UMD’s $1.5 billion fundraising campaign focused on elevating and expanding the university’s mission of service, enhancing academic distinction and bolstering UMD’s leading-edge research enterprise. 

A pioneer in the emerging field of special education, Lokerson, who passed away on November 7, 2016, was dedicated to understanding and addressing the challenges of having a disability.

“Jean found great joy in teaching special education students and as a ‘teacher of teachers,’ through her role as a professor in the university setting,” said Elise Blankenship, a longtime friend and colleague of Lokerson. “It is a fitting reflection of her legacy that her generous gift to the university will help prepare the next generation of educators for excellence.”

A committed, lifelong educator, Lokerson’s interest in education began in her childhood home, where she taught her triplet younger siblings. After receiving an undergraduate degree in elementary education from The George Washington University in 1959, she taught elementary education in Montgomery County, Maryland, before pursuing a master’s degree in special education from Syracuse University. She completed her doctorate in special education from the University of Maryland in 1970 with a minor in human development.

“Jean valued her education at the University of Maryland, her professors, and the many opportunities it provided her, which helped shape her career,” Blankenship said. 

Lokerson then transitioned into higher education, where she helped prepare special education teachers for the classroom at a number of institutions, prior to becoming a professor emerita at Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition to receiving numerous professional honors, she was recognized for her innovative use of simulations, technology and hands-on experiences in teaching special education.

The undergraduate and graduate student recipients, referred to as John T. and Dorothy E. Lokerson Scholars, will be selected first on the basis of merit and academic excellence and then on the basis of financial need.


Photo: Headshot of  Jean E. Lokerson. Credit: Lokerson Family

UMD-Led Quantum Light Research Enables Sources of Nearly Identical Photons

September 11, 2018
Contacts: 

Emily Edwards, 301-405-2291

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The smallest amount of light you can have is one photon, so dim that it’s pretty much invisible to humans. While imperceptible, these tiny blips of energy are useful for carrying quantum information around. Ideally, every quantum courier would be the same, but there isn’t a straightforward way to produce a stream of identical photons. This is particularly challenging when individual photons come from fabricated chips.

Now, researchers at the University of Maryland have demonstrated a new approach that enables different devices to repeatedly emit nearly identical single photons. The team, led by UMD Associate Professor Mohammad Hafezi, made a silicon chip that guides light around the device’s edge, where it is inherently protected against disruptions.

Previously, Hafezi—who has affiliations in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, of UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, the UMD-based Joint Quantum Institute, and UMD’s Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics—together with colleagues showed that this design can reduce the likelihood of optical signal degradation. Their findings were published online September 10 in Nature.

“We initially thought that we would need to be more careful with the design, and that the photons would be more sensitive to our chip’s fabrication process,” said lead author Sunil Mittal, an assistant research scientist in UMD’s Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics and a postdoctoral researcher in the Joint Quantum Institute. “But, astonishingly, photons generated in these shielded edge channels are always nearly identical, regardless of how bad the chips are.”

In this work, the team found that the same physics which protects the light along the chip’s edge also ensures reliable photon production. Single photons, which are an example of quantum light, are more than just really dim light. This distinction has a lot to do with where the light comes from.

“Pretty much all of the light we encounter in our everyday lives is packed with photons,” said Elizabeth Goldschmidt, a researcher at the US Army Research Laboratory and the Joint Quantum Institute and a co-author on the study.  “But unlike a light bulb, there are some sources that actually emit light, one photon at time, and this can only be described by quantum physics.”

Many researchers are working on building reliable quantum light emitters so that they can isolate and control the quantum properties of single photons. Goldschmidt explained that such light sources will likely be important for future quantum information devices as well as further understanding the mysteries of quantum physics. “Modern communications relies heavily on non-quantum light,” said Goldschmidt. “Similarly, many of us believe that single photons are going to be required for any kind of quantum communication application out there.”

Scientists can generate quantum light using a natural color-changing process that occurs when a beam of light passes through certain materials. In this experiment the team used silicon, a common industrial choice for guiding light, to convert infrared laser light into pairs of different-colored single photons.

They injected light into a chip containing an array of miniscule silicon loops. Under the microscope, the loops look like linked-up glassy racetracks. The light circulates around each loop thousands of times before moving on to a neighboring loop. Stretched out, the light’s path would be several centimeters long, but the loops make it possible to fit the journey in a space that is about 500 times smaller. The relatively long journey is necessary to get many pairs single photons out of the silicon chip.  

Such loop arrays are routinely used as single photon sources, but small differences between chips will cause the photon colors to vary from one device to the next. Even within a single device, random defects in the material may reduce the average photon quality. This is a problem for quantum information applications where researchers need the photons to be as close to identical as possible.

The team circumvented this issue by arranging the loops in a way that always allows the light to travel undisturbed around the edge of the chip, even if fabrication defects are present. This design not only shields the light from disruptions—it  also restricts how single photons form within those edge channels. The loop layout essentially forces each photon pair to be nearly identical to the next, regardless of microscopic differences among the rings. The central part of the chip does not contain protected routes, and so any photons created in those areas are affected by material defects.

The researchers compared their chips to ones without any protected routes. They collected pairs of photons from the different chips, counting the number emitted and noting their color. They observed that their quantum light source reliably produced high quality, single-color photons time and again, whereas the conventional chip’s output was more unpredictable.

According to Mittal this device has one additional advantage over other single photon sources. “Our chip works at room temperature. I don’t have to cool it down to cryogenic temperatures like other quantum light sources, making it a comparatively very simple setup.”

The team said that this finding could open up a new avenue of research, which unites quantum light with photonic devices having built-in protective features. “Physicists have only recently realized that shielded pathways fundamentally alter the way that photons interact with matter,” said Mittal. “This could have implications for a variety of fields where light-matter interactions play a role, including quantum information science and optoelectronic technology.”

 

The Joint Quantum Institute is a research partnership between University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, with the support and participation of the Laboratory for Physical Sciences.

UMD Named One of America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting

September 11, 2018
Contacts: 

Jennifer Burroughs, 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. --  The University of Maryland has been listed among 58 universities in the nation who are living up to their civic responsibility to develop students who buy in and give back to their country and communities. 

For the first year, Washington Monthly magazine expanded on their analysis of civic initiatives at colleges and universities, by creating an exclusive list of those who excel in this area. The colleges listed were first evaluated for the magazine's overall best college ranking and then four more factors were evaluated to determine their commitment to student voting. These factors include:

  • Participation in Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), which helps colleges calculate their precise student voting and registration rates by combining national voting records with enrollment data.
  • Participation in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, an effort that uses NSLVE data to help colleges create plans to boost their students’ voting rates and civic participation.
  • Public release of NSLVE data as an ALL IN school.
  • Public release of ALL IN action plan.

The University of Maryland recently reauthorized its NSLVE status through the year 2023, and have been an ALL IN school with a public action plan since 2014. The most recent 2018 action plan features initiatives that emphasize innovation and advocacy to inspire social change through students. UMD is also participating in the Big Ten Voting Challenge, which aims to register even more students to become civically engaged. 

The full Washington Monthly list of America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting is available here.

UMD Named One of the Nation’s Top 25 Public Colleges

September 10, 2018
Contacts: 

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The University of Maryland remains one of the top 25 public institutions in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 Best Colleges list, released today. UMD placed No. 22 on this year’s list, maintaining the same spot among public universities as last year.

The university has 54 undergraduate and graduate programs ranked among the top 25, nationally. The Robert H. Smith School of Business remained at No. 21, while the A. James Clark School of Engineering rose one place, to No. 24. UMD was also named No. 33 among Best Schools for Veterans, and recognized for its learning committees. 

Overall, the university ranked No. 63 on this year’s list.

With an emphasis on academic excellence, U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges rankings evaluate 16 factors, including assessment of excellence, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance and alumni giving. This year, the magazine introduced a new methodology to measure how well schools support low-income students through graduation.

CP Dream Team Celebrates College Park’s African-American Heritage in Lakeland Community

September 10, 2018

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The CP Dream Team, a quarterly friendly basketball game to foster trust between youth and police officers, will celebrate a six-year anniversary on September 14 at 7pm at the College Park Community Center. Local youth from the Lakeland community, College Park’s historic African-American community, will play with officers from M-NCPPC Park Police, University of Maryland Police Department, and Prince George’s County Police Department to demonstrate the significance of community engagement. 

CP Dream TeamThe game will be in conjunction with the annual Lakeland Heritage Weekend, which celebrates African-American heritage in the Lakeland community. The mission of Lakeland Community Heritage Project, a key CP Dream Team partner, is to preserve African-American history in the area which began in the late nineteenth century. 

“Sports are a way to connect people of all ages and the community of today with the past. Annually we celebrate Lakeland Heritage with CP Dream Team, presenting the past and recognizing sports heroes of today,” says Maxine Gross, Director of Lakeland Community Heritage Project. 

Lakeland Heritage Weekend will take place the weekend of September 22 with a parade, picnic and benefit concert.  

“The CP Dream Team has made a tremendous impact in the Lakeland Community. The camaraderie between the law enforcement agencies and our youth has been outstanding. Trust has been built, and continues to be built between the police officers and the community with each game”, says Reverend Edna Jenkins of Embry Center for Family Life, a local nonprofit in Lakeland and major partner of CP Dream Team. “We are listening and communicating with each other because of a commitment to promote, ‘Unity in the Community’. We have a common goal of wanting a safe and supportive community for all residents”.   

CP Dream Team is possible because of collaboration between the University of Maryland, College Park Community Center (M-NCPPC), Lakeland Community Heritage Project, Embry Center for Family Life and the participating police agencies. 

For more information about the CP Dream Team, visit oce.umd.edu/college-park-dream-team.

For more information about Lakeland Heritage Weekend, visit https://lakelandchp.com.

 

 

Large-Scale Wind and Solar Farms in the Sahara Would Increase Rain and Vegetation

September 6, 2018
Contacts: 

 Lee Tune 301-439-1438

 

North Africa showing the Sahara

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A new study led by University of Maryland (UMD) scientists conducted novel climate and vegetation model experiments to show that wind and solar farms could lead to a more than doubling of rainfall in the Sahara and an increase of up to about 20 inches (500 mm/year) in the Sahel, a semi-arid transition region that lies south of the Sahara.

Large-scale wind and solar farms in the Sahara could provide enough energy to replace the fossil fuel energy used currently and in the foreseeable future. The primary effect of such renewable energy farms would be a substantial reduction of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting mitigation of climate change. However, such large-scale wind and solar farms could also affect regional climate due to changes to land surface properties. An international group of researchers, led by UMD scientists, explored such climate impacts by including bidirectional vegetation feedbacks between a global climate model and a land/vegetation model. Their findings were published today in Science.

"Our model results show that large-scale solar and wind farms in the Sahara would more than double the precipitation in the Sahara, and the most substantial increase occurs in the Sahel, where the magnitude of rainfall increase is between ~200 and ~500 mm per year," said Yan Li, a lead author of the paper who was a UMD postdoctoral researcher when the study began and is now at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "As a result, vegetation cover fraction increases by about 20 percent." 

"Precipitation increases predicted by our model would lead to substantial improvements of rainfed agriculture in the region, and vegetation increases would lead to the growth in production of livestock," said Safa Motesharrei, UMD Systems Scientist and a lead author of the paper. "The Sahara, the Sahel, and the Middle East include some of the driest regions in the world, while experiencing high growth of population and poverty. Our study has major implications for addressing the intertwined sustainability challenges of the Energy–Water–Food nexus in this region."

"Moreover, the availability of vast quantities of clean energy would allow for desalination of seawater and transporting it to the regions that suffer most from severe freshwater scarcity, in turn, leading to improvement of public health, expansion of agriculture and food production, and even restoration of biodiversity" added Motesharrei about the broader societal, economic, and ecological impacts of their novel scientific findings.

Past as Prelude

"In 1975 Jule Charney, my PhD advisor at MIT, proposed a feedback mechanism to help explain the drought in the Sahel, the semi-arid transition region south of the Sahara: Overgrazing increased surface albedo [reflectivity], reduced precipitation, and in turn further reduced vegetation,” said Eugenia Kalnay, University of Maryland Distinguished University Professor and a lead author of the paper. “About a decade ago, I had the idea that this feedback would work in the opposite direction in the presence of large solar panel farms, since these would reduce the surface albedo. Similarly, wind farms would increase land surface friction and convergence of air, thus producing upward motion and precipitation. This is a second feedback mechanism that was discovered by Y.C. Sud in 1985, but again in the opposite direction. These feedback mechanisms suggest that both large wind and solar farms in the Sahara would significantly increase precipitation and vegetation. Our results support this conclusion." (See Figure.)

 The figure and related code and data available at: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7045547

"Solar and wind power projects in Africa and the Middle East are already underway, from Morocco to Dubai to Ethiopia, including over 200 GW of solar power planned by 2030," said co-author Jorge Rivas, a political scientist. "This renewable electricity could be transported to regions a few thousand kilometers away, and long-distance transmission lines have already existed in Africa and elsewhere for decades." 

"This study accomplishes something completely new: it looks at how human action can affect the land surface through construction of solar and wind farms, and shows that for land use change of this magnitude, it is fundamental to look at the impact on regional climate using global climate models that account for land–atmosphere feedbacks," said Paolo D'Odorico, Professor of Ecohydrology at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not a co-author. 

This study shows "that dynamic vegetation feedback could enhance the impact of land use changes on climate in this specific region [Sahara and Sahel]," said Guiling Wang, a Professor of Hydroclimatology at the University of Connecticut, who was not a co-author. "Studies using models with static [prescribed] vegetation may underestimate the effects on regional climate of anthropogenic activities such as deforestation or wind and solar farms." 

"These experiments with dynamic vegetation feedback in our model show that the positive precipitation–vegetation–albedo feedback accounts for about 80 percent of the simulated precipitation increase in the wind farm experiments," said co-author Eviatar Bach, PhD Candidate at the UMD Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science (AOSC). The dynamic vegetation model was developed by co-author Ning Zeng, a Professor at UMD AOSC, and coupled into the global climate model developed by co-author  Fred Kucharski, a climate scientist at the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Italy. 

"While it was known that surface roughness and albedo can affect climate and rainfall, the conclusion that including dynamic vegetation would lead to a strong positive feedback in rainfall is new," said J. Shukla, a renowned climate scientist and Distinguished University Professor of Climate Dynamics at George Mason University, who was not a co-author. "This research certainly suggests that it will be possible to create a self-sustaining renewable energy system, which will be greatly beneficial for the socioeconomic development of the region."

"The Sahara has been expanding for some decades, and solar and wind farms might help stop the expansion of this arid region," said Russ Dickerson, a leader on air quality research and a professor at UMD AOSC, who was not a co-author. "This looks like a win-win to me." he said.

 “Climate model shows large-scale wind and solar farms in the Sahara increase rain and vegetation” by Yan Li, Eugenia Kalnay, Safa Motesharrei, Jorge Rivas, Fred Kucharski, Daniel Kirk-Davidoff, Eviatar Bach, and Ning Zeng. Science, 2018 September 7. DOI: 10.1126/science.aar5629

 

 

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December 14
 A new UMD Critical Issues Poll on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict finds Americans are evenly divided... Read