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Global warming threatens more than just poles and tropics

A report expected next month is expected to detail how climate shifts are already disrupting the habitats of many species.

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Some of the world's most distinctive and biologically diverse climate regions – from South America's Andes Mountains to southern and eastern Africa and the US Southwest – may be drastically altered by century's end, endangering plant and animal life there, according to a new climate-modeling report issued March 26.

The researchers built their forecast on data contained in a massive study being published in installments this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. An April 6 report by the IPCC, a follow-up to its first report released last month, is expected to detail how climate shifts caused by global warming are already disrupting the habitats of many species and will drive some to extinction.

While polar regions have been thought to show the earliest, most obvious signs of global warming, the tropics will face challenging changes, the new climate modeling shows. Because tropical regions are used to steady temperatures, even small changes of 3 or 4 degrees F. could have a stronger impact than, say, a 5- to 8-degree F. change farther from the equator, according to authors John Williams and John Kutzback, both at the University of Wisconsin, and Stephen Jackson at the University of Wyoming. Their findings appear in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The authors, quoted in the environmental website, identified parts of the world where climate zones would be compromised first.

"Disappearing climates are primarily concentrated in tropical mountains and the poleward sides of continents....
"Many current species [will be] disrupted or disappear entirely."

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