Climate change research

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UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS — UI researchers have been studying how climate change affects carbon in soil. This determines how fertile it may be and is key to seeing success in the Midwest’s biggest asset: agriculture.  

“There are vast quantities of carbon stored in soils. It’s why soils are dark brown.”

Those carbons are why the Midwest is one of the best places for agriculture. UI researchers say it’s important the soil stays that way.

“Good carbon rich soils are very fertile soils. They have nitrogen content, they have good water-holding capacity. They’re kind of why our former prairie lands are now corn and bean areas.”  

Recently, a three-year study was done. A soybean field was set up in the Morrow Plots on campus. Professor Evan DeLucia says it was interesting to see what happened.

“We took a soybean field and exposed it to the concentrations and the temperatures we’re expecting in the year 2050. What we found is, with elevated temperature, the amount of carbon dioxide coming from the soil microorganisms is going up quite dramatically.”  

But more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can lead to a bigger issue.

“If that warming causes the soils to release more CO2, then it’s going to accelerate the rate of warming.”

Global warming that is.

“We now understand, with great scientific certainty, that the climate system is changing.”  

DeLucia says there are ways to slow it down.

“The optimistic side of me says we can solve problems we get ourselves into and the realist says we need to take steps to solve them.”

Some of those are by turning to solar farms and wind energy and reducing our carbon footprint the best we can.

“We need to slow the rate of growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere quite dramatically if we are to reverse this trend in global warming.” 

DeLucia says the research is far from over. This is something they will continue to study and look for the best ways to slow global warming.

Last year was the hottest year ever recorded. It’s the third year in a row average global temperatures hit record highs.

It also shows the planet’s average temperature has risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century. NASA and NOAA released the information this week.  

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