Scientists Chart Velocity of Climate Change

By | December 24, 2009

Scientists Chart Velocity of Climate Change

From beetles to barnacles, pikas to pine warblers, many species are already on the move in response to shifting climate regimes. But how fast will they – and their habitats – have to move to keep pace with global climate change over the next century? In a new study, a team of scientists including Dr. Healy Hamilton from the California Academy of Sciences have calculated that on average, ecosystems will need to shift about 0.42 kilometers per year (about a quarter mile per year) to keep pace with changing temperatures across the globe. Mountainous habitats will be able to move more slowly, since a modest move up or down slope can result in a large change in temperature. However, flatter ecosystems, such as flooded grasslands, mangroves, and deserts, will need to move much more rapidly to stay in their comfort zone – sometimes more than a kilometer per year. The team, which also included scientists from the Carnegie Institute of Science, Climate Central, and U.C. Berkeley, will publish their results in the December 24 issue of Nature.

“One of the most powerful aspects of this data is that it allows us to evaluate how our current protected area network will perform as we attempt to conserve biodiversity in the face of global climate change,” says Healy Hamilton, Director of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Informatics at the California Academy of Sciences. “When we look at residence times for protected areas, which we define as the amount of time it will take current climate conditions to move across and out of a given protected area, only 8% of our current protected areas have residence times of more than 100 years. If we want to improve these numbers, we need to both reduce our carbon emissions and work quickly toward expanding and connecting our global network of protected areas.”

The team calculated the velocity of global climate change by combining data on current climate and temperature regimes worldwide with a large suite of climate model projections for the next century. Their calculations are based on an “intermediate” level of projected greenhouse gas emissions over the next century (the A1B emissions scenario from The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Under these emissions levels, the velocity of climate change is projected to be the slowest in tropical and subtropical coniferous forests (0.08 kilometers per year), temperate coniferous forests (0.11 kilometers per year), and montane grasslands and shrublands (0.11 kilometers per year). The velocity of climate change is expected to be the fastest in flatter areas, including deserts and xeric shrublands (0.71 kilometers per year), mangroves (0.95 kilometers per year), and flooded grasslands and savannas (1.26 kilometers per year). …

via Velocity of Climate Change: California Academy of Sciences.

3 thoughts on “Scientists Chart Velocity of Climate Change

  1. Pingback: Wal-Mart Completes New Solar Energy Projects in California |

  2. gavin

    Xeno, What are your thoughts on the “climategate” scandal?

    Also, I went through the “earth” archives, and found articles I have never seen before, although I usually see most of your articles. Is there some reason I would not see some of these articles on your main page?

    1. Xeno Post author

      Hi Gavin,

      What do you think about it?

      My view: The “scandal” seemed not involve enough people or data to change the conclusion that global climate change is really happening and that it is due to human causes.

      To me, “climategate” seemed like a political move, possibly a combination hacking attack and psychological operation by the military industrial complex with possible involvement by various governments. You can’t really separate energy and national security these days.

      My gut tells me that it is much more likely that certain people are in denial about our ability as a species to damage the planet than the other possibility: that there is a large conspiracy by scientists to raise a false alarm to get money. Scientists thrive on showing that data is flawed if it in fact is, so I don’t think a conspiracy of scientists is the answer.

      A middle ground between those two conspiracy theories would be this: paradigm shifts do happen. There are times when science as a whole is barking up the wrong tree. Is this one of those times? Could be, but I don’t think so. Scientists have looked at the sun and at other possible causes.

      To answer your second question, it is possible that I posted many things in one day and some did not show up on the main page. You could miss something that way. It is possible for me to post something and back date a post so it wouldn’t show up at all unless you searched for the category. I did that way back when I was starting this block because I was transferring some posts to here from my previous blog, but I haven’t been doing that since.

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