The role that trees play in our ecosystem is vital, but WLTX Meteorologist Alex Calamia shares how they directly impact urban areas.
See this experiment, as well as several others, in action thanks to our friends at WLTX.
Did You Know...
Columbia has earned the designation as a Tree City USA from Arbor Day Foundation for 41 years, which is longer than any other South Carolina city has qualified for that designation.
Now, trees filter our pollution in the air and water, so they’re very important to cities. However, how many trees does it take to make a difference? The answer may surprise you.
The Forestry and Beautification Division plants 500 trees in the right-of-way every year, and it has for a number of years. It’s an effort from the city to cool down the temperature, improve flood control, reduce erosion and protect nature from our mess. As water runs down the pavement, it picks up whatever is on there. Trees can also pull pollutants from the air.
To prove just how effective tress are, Calamia visited the largest collection of plant samples in the state, which is tucked away at the University of South Carolina’s A.C. Moore Herbarium. If you're thinking about a plant morgue, that’s just about right. These small plant cuttings give researchers a big perspective on how people are changing the forests and how trees can clean some of our mistakes.
Think of your mouth or nose. The stomata is the opening through which the plant would intake gasses and release gaseous waste products. One of those gasses is carbon-dioxide. The same gas that warms our planet's temperature and other pollutants, like nitrogen and ozone, are all trapped inside trees.
Take a tree that is 100-years-old. In a few calculations, Calamia can figure out how much carbon dioxide the tree holds. Use a tape measure as a way to get the diameter of a tree. Measure it at breast height, so about three-and-a-half to four feet off the ground. Then measure the tree’s height safely from solid ground, using a range finder instrument. It has a little laser beam that will shoot at the trunk of the tree. It turns out that the trunk of the tree is 60 feet tall, and it’s about three feet thick.
How much carbon is this saving us? In the 100-year-old tree, there's about 18,626 lbs. of carbon dioxide locked up in its wood is about 18,626 lbs. Yes, that's more than nine tons.
Putting it into perspective, the average passenger car emits about five tons of carbon dioxide each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s more than half as much carbon dioxide that the 100-year-old tree has stored in its entire lifetime. It would take about 55 trees that are the same size to offset the carbon emissions from one passenger car.
To determine the weight of carbon dioxide in trees, use the following formula:
0.25 X diameter X diameter X height
Multiply by 1.2
Multiply by 0.725
Multiply by 0.5
Multiply by 3.663
Alex Calamia is a morning meteorologist at WLTX in Columbia, SC. You can watch his forecasts every weekday. Learn more about Calamia and how he got interested in weather by clicking here.