Sunday, December 21, 2014

Loss of Rainforests Is Double Whammy Threat to Climate

A convoy of trucks carrying logs from tropical forests in Gabon, central Africa. (Credit: jbdodane via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Tropical rainforests do more than just soak up carbon dioxide and renew atmospheric oxygen, they affect the weather in the rest of the world as well.  And if the Amazon rainforest disappeared, the US Midwest could begin to dry up during the growing season.

In what is claimed as the most comprehensive analysis to date, US researchers report in Nature Climate Change that they used climate models to test the consequences of the complete devastation of the tropical rainforests.

They found that wholesale felling and clearing of the forests in Amazonia, Africa and South-east Asia would have consequences that extended far beyond the tropics, and could affect agriculture in North America, Europe and Asia.

“Tropical deforestation delivers a double whammy to the climate – and to farmers,” says Deborah Lawrence, an environmental scientist at the University of Virginia.
The complete loss of tree cover in the Amazon basin – and a huge proportion has already disappeared – would reduce rainfall in parts of the US Midwest and Northwest and in the Southern states.

Were the Africa rainforests to vanish, there would be lower levels of rainfall in the Gulf of Mexico, in the Ukraine, and in Southern Europe.  On the other hand, the Arabian Peninsula might benefit.

“In the last few centuries, the average global temperature has never varied by more than about one degree,” Professor Lawrence says.  “Once we go above one degree – to 1.5 degrees or more – we’re talking about conditions that are very different from anything humanity has ever experienced.

“Farmers, so reliant on consistent and reliable growing conditions, could lose their bearings, and even their incomes, when facing these ups and downs in temperature and rainfall.  While farmers may ultimately adapt to shifts in the season, it’s difficult, if not impossible, for farmers to adapt to increased floods or parched soils.”

Read more at Loss of Rainforests Is Double Whammy Threat to Climate

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