Laramie, WY – Bark beetles may speed up the effects of climate change. The National Center for Atmospheric Research has launched a study of forests from Wyoming to New Mexico that have been ravaged by bark beetles.
Alex Guenther is the lead investigator. He says trees cool the atmosphere. They also release particles that form the starting point for raindrops. "So without these trees in the forests," he says, "then we expect warmer, drier weather in these forests."
Guenther says this means bark beetles may create a kind of feedback loop. Warmer temperatures may worsen the beetle epidemic, because there are fewer cold spells to kill beetles off. In turn, the beetle epidemic may bring warmer, drier temperatures. Guenther says this may affect the climate in parts of the Rocky Mountain West.