Scientists Predict A Drier Amazon Rainforest And A Wetter Indonesia In The Future

Posted: Apr 29 2018, 1:21pm CDT | by , Updated: Apr 29 2018, 1:26pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Scientists Predict a Drier Amazon Rainforest and a Wetter Indonesia in the Future
Credit: University of Exeter

Climate models predict that an increase in greenhouse gases will dry out the Amazon and cause wetter conditions in Africa and Indonesia

Researchers have found a way to model how different parts of the world could respond to climate change in the future. Based on the modeling results, they suggest that some areas will experience dramatic swings in their weather patterns. Because of the increase in greenhouse gases, Amazon rainforest will dry out in the future while woodlands of Africa and Indonesia will get wetter. The shift in worldwide precipitation is partially dependent on the response of forests towards high levels of carbon dioxide. Researchers suggest that interaction between rainforests and rising carbon levels contributes to the changes in asymmetrical pattern of rainfall across the tropics.

“People tend to think that most of the disruption will come from heat going into the oceans, which, in turn, will alter wind patterns,” said James Randerson from University of California, Irvine. “We have found that large-scale changes in rainfall can, in part, be attributed to the way tropical forests respond to the overabundance of carbon dioxide humans are emitting in to atmosphere, particularly over dense forests in the Amazon and across Asia."

Every year, trees remove a significant amount of carbon dioxide from atmosphere. Trees have small pores on the underside of their leaves that open and shut to absorb carbon dioxide and use it to grow. They also release water vapor during the process.

When more CO2 is present, the pores on leaves do not open as widely, which reduces the amount of evaporated water. This small process at the plant level becomes intense when we observe it at large-scale. It can cause changes in the atmosphere and affect the way winds blow and the flow of moisture coming from the ocean.

“With higher CO2, trees and forests evaporate less moisture into the air, so fewer clouds are formed above the Amazon," said researcher Gabriel Kooperman. "And rather than (joining with the usually abundant clouds and) raining over the forest, water vapor from the Atlantic Ocean blows across the South American continent to the Andes mountain range, where it comes down as rain on the mountain slopes, with limited benefit to the rainforest in the Amazon basin."

The situation in Amazon is distinctly different from Central Africa and a vast area between the Pacific and Indian oceans that includes Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian archipelago. An increase in rainfall is predicted over these forests as they are surrounded by humid air above warm ocean surfaces.

"You'll get a stronger contrast in heating over the islands compared to the nearby ocean, and so it will enhance a natural ocean-land breeze, pulling in more moisture from these neighboring ocean systems to increase rainfall over the forests.” Randerson said.

Researcher used a combination of simulations provided through the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 and Community Earth System Model to make future projections.

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