A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Do forests drive wind and bring rain? Is there a major man-made climate driver the models miss?

Clouds over Amazon forest (Rio Negro). Image NASA Earth Observatory.

What if winds were mainly driven by changes in water vapor, and those changes occurred commonly in air over forests? Forests would be the pumps that draw in moist air from over the oceans. Rather than assuming that forests grow where the rain falls, it would be more a case of rain falling where forests grow. When water vapor condenses it reduces the air pressure, which pulls in more dense air from over the ocean.

A new paper is causing a major stir. The paper is so controversial that many reviewers and editors said it should not be published.  After two years of deliberations,  Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics decided it was too important not to discuss.

The physics is apparently quite convincing, the question is not whether it happens, but how strong the effect is. Climate models assume it is a small or non-existent factor. Graham Lloyd has done a good job describing both the paper and the reaction to it in The Australian.

Sheil says the key finding is that atmospheric pressure changes from moisture condensation are orders of magnitude greater than previously recognised. The paper concludes “condensation [...]