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The browning of Europe

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11:50am, October 11, 2005

Two summers ago, Switzerland saw its hottest June in 250 years. Then, in August of that year, temperatures in France soared to 40°C (104°F) and remained high for weeks. Scientists estimate that more than 30,000 Europeans, many of them French, died during that heat wave (SN: 7/3/04, p. 10: Available to subscribers Dead Heat).

Now, new climate research shows that the hot, dry weather affected more than the continent's people. Data from satellite-borne sensors measuring reflected light from foliage suggest that plants in the region sported as little as two-thirds as much greenery in 2003 as they did on average in the 3 previous years, says Philippe Ciais of the Laboratory for Climate Sciences and the Environment in Gif-sur-Yvette, France. The largest decreases in foliage occurred in France and northern Italy.

Leaves extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and ground-level measurements during the heat wave indicated higher-than-normal a

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