Spatial patterns and recent trends in the climate of tropical forest regions

Malhi, Y. and Wright, J.A. (2004) Spatial patterns and recent trends in the climate of tropical forest regions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B – Biological Science, 359, (1443), 311-329. (doi:10.1098/rstb.2003.1433).


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We present an analysis of the mean climate and climatic trends of tropical rainforest regions over the
period 1960–1998, with the aid of explicit maps of forest cover and climatological databases. Until the
mid-1970s most regions showed little trend in temperature, and the western Amazon experienced a net
cooling probably associated with an interdecadal oscillation. Since the mid-1970s, all tropical rainforest
regions have experienced a strong warming at a mean rate of 0.26 ± 0.05 °C per decade, in synchrony
with a global rise in temperature that has been attributed to the anthropogenic greenhouse effect. Over
the study period, precipitation appears to have declined in tropical rainforest regions at a rate of
1.0 ± 0.8% per decade (p 5%), declining sharply in northern tropical Africa (at 3–4% per decade),
declining marginally in tropical Asia and showing no significant trend in Amazonia. There is no evidence
so far of a decline in precipitation in eastern Amazonia, a region thought vulnerable to climate-changeinduced
drying. The strong drying trend in Africa suggests that this should be a priority study region for
understanding the impact of drought on tropical rainforests. We develop and use a dry-season index to
study variations in the length and intensity of the dry season. Only African and Indian tropical rainforests
appear to have seen a significant increase in dry-season intensity. In terms of interannual variability, the
El Nin˜o–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the primary driver of temperature variations across the tropics
and of precipitation fluctuations for large areas of the Americas and southeast Asia. The relation between
ENSO and tropical African precipitation appears less direct.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1098/rstb.2003.1433
ISSNs: 0080-4622 (print)
Related URLs:
Keywords: tropical forest; Amazonia; Africa; Asia; climate change; drought
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Geography > Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis
ePrint ID: 55564
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
20 February 2004Published
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2008
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:35

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