For two reasons it is important to study the sensitivity of the global climate to changes in the vegetation cover over land. First, in the real world, changes in the vegetation cover may have regional and global implications. Second, in numerical simulations, the sensitivity of the simulated climate may depend on the specific parameterization schemes employed in the model and on the model's large-scale systematic errors. The Max-Planck-Institute's global general circulation model ECHAM4 has been used to study the sensitivity of the local and global climate during a full annual cycle to deforestation and afforestation in the Mediterranean region. The deforestation represents an extreme desertification scenario for this region. The changes in the afforestation experiment are based on the pattern of the vegetation cover 2000 years before present when the climate in the Mediterranean was more humid. The comparison of the deforestation integration to the control shows a slight cooling at the surface and reduced precipitation during the summer as a result of less evapotranspiration of plants and less evaporation from the assumption of eroded soils. There is no significant signal during the winter season due to the stronger influence of the mid-latitude baroclinic disturbances. In general, the results of the afforestation experiment are opposite to those of the deforestation case. A significant response was found in the vicinity of grid points where the land surface characteristics were modified. The response in the Sahara in the afforestation experiment is in agreement with the results from other general circulation model studies.
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- Climate change