Complex connections

Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 363, 1753–1759 (2008)

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Changes in sea surface temperature could play a major role in loss of the Amazon rainforest in the latter half of this century, a new study has found.

The research, led by Phil Harris of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, United Kingdom, used the atmospheric component of a well-established climate model developed by the UK's Hadley Centre to determine whether changes in sea surface temperature could trigger the disappearance of the Amazon rainforest by 2100. If sea surface temperatures of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans changed simultaneously up until 2059, annual rainfall in the Amazon basin would be reduced by of more than 20 per cent on average, the authors found. Rainfall could decrease by as much as 48 per cent in the period outside of the South American monsoon season, between May and October.

The authors say that the projected reductions in rainfall are influenced by a suite of factors, but that sea surface temperature across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans is the main driver under certain warming scenarios. Such shortages of rain would cut the Amazon's carbon uptake by nearly a third, rendering this socially, economically and biologically critical ecosystem unsustainable.

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Armstrong, A. Complex connections. Nature Clim Change 1, 82 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/climate.2008.62

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