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The Amazon's trees can make it rain

Andre Penner / AP

Trees in the Amazon can generate rain, according to a new study

in Science

.

  • How it works: Plants release water vapor through their leaves during photosynthesis, and in the rainforest that process actually creates "low-level clouds." A bonus effect: the rain from those clouds warms the atmosphere, causing wind patterns to shift and pulling more moisture in from the ocean.
  • How they did it: Using a NASA satellite that studies the chemistry of the Earth's atmosphere, the team led by Rong Fu, a climate scientist at UCLA, found that water vapor over the Amazon was too high in the isotope deuterium to come from the ocean, and must instead come from plants.
  • Why it matters: It's interesting that trees can play an active role in causing rainfall , but as Science points out, in this context it could mean that deforestation actually causes droughts.