Quirks & Quarks

Do trees radiate heat?

To maintain energy balance in the leaves, they have to dissipate a lot of the sun's incoming energy as heat.
Trees radiate a little bit of heat as part of their metabolism (Pixabay)

This week Quirks Question comes from Luca Astri in Barrie, Ont., who asks, "Do trees radiate heat?"

Dr. Om Rajora, a professor of forest tree genetics and genomics from the University of New Brunswick, says the short answer is, "yes."

He says there are three ways that leaves dissipate energy coming in from the sun to maintain their energy balance.

The first reason is that trees absorb light within a certain range, so any light below this wavelength is reflected back as "radiative heat loss."

The second type of heat loss by plants and leaves in the trees is called "convection heat loss" where the leaves transfer heat to the atmosphere to protect themselves from heat damage.

The third type of heat loss is "transpiration," which causes evaporation to occur, just like how we release heat when we exercise and sweat.