From: Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published January 31, 2013 08:58 AM

'Biotic Pump' Theory Suggests Forests Drive Wind and Rain

It took over two-and-a-half-years for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics to finally accept a paper outlining a new meteorological hypothesis in which condensation, not temperature, drives winds. If proven correct, the hypothesis could have massive ramifications on global policy—not to mention meteorology—as essentially the hypothesis means that the world's forest play a major role in driving precipitation from the coast into a continent's interior. The theory, known as the biotic pump, was first developed in 2006 by two Russian scientists, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva of the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics, but the two have faced major pushback and delays in their attempt to put the theory before the greater scientific community.


"It is, at first glance, incredible that such a process could be so influential, be based on basic physics, and yet have gone unnoticed for so long by so many," says co-author Douglas Sheil who worked with Gorshkov and Makarieva on the new paper. "I shared this view initially, but over time it has withstood a large number of queries and challenges."

The current paper, entitled "Where do winds come from? A new theory on how water vapor condensation influences atmospheric pressure and dynamics," outlines the physics behind the new theory. It sparked harsh criticism and long debates—years long—but in the end the journal decided to publish the piece, albeit with a lengthy editor's note at the end of the paper.

"It is very unusual," Sheil with Southern Cross University in Australia says of the editor's note. "Clearly there has been major debate and disagreement. But in science we are generally used to the idea that theories are ideas to be tested, publishing them does not endorse appears that people are less comfortable with that in meteorology and climate studies."

The editor's note explains that even though the new theory "has been subject to considerable criticism" they decided to publish "despite the strong criticism from the esteemed reviewers—to promote continuation of the scientific dialogue on the controversial theory."

The unusual note goes on to state that the decision to publish "is not an endorsement or confirmation of the theory, but rather a call for further development of the arguments presented in the paper that shall lead to conclusive disproof or validation by the scientific community."

Read more about the theory at MONGABAY.COM

Rainforest image via Shutterstock.

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