New study aims to identify the climactic tipping point for cities around the globe
Locations around the globe will soon reach climatic tipping points, with some in tropical regions – home to most of the world’s biodiversity – feeling the first impacts of unprecedented eras of elevated temperatures as soon as seven years from now, according to a study released yesterday.
On average, locations worldwide will leave behind the climates that have existed from the middle of the 19th century through the beginning of the 21st century by 2047 if no progress is made in curbing emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, said researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who sought to project the timing of that event for 54,000 locations.
If they are correct, the transition would occur by 2020 in Manokwari, Indonesia; by 2023 in Kingston, Jamaica; by 2029 in Lagos, Nigeria; by 2047 in Washington, D.C.; by 2066 in Reykjavik, Iceland; and by 2071 in Anchorage, Alaska.
“The boundary of passing from the climate of the past to the climate of the future really happens surprisingly soon,” said Christopher Field, director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science, who was not part of the research team but has read the study, published in the journal Nature.
Researchers said at a news briefing that their estimates are “conservative,” based on mountains of data from 39 different models and accurate within five years in either direction for any of the locations they studied.
Although scientific research shows more warming occurs nearer Earth’s poles – and the melting of Arctic ice sheets is the iconic image of a warming planet – the tropics are especially vulnerable because even a small change in climate will affect a wide range of species. It is also alarming because the area around the equator is home to billions of people in poor nations with fewer resources to help them cope.
The new study is hardly the first to document the steady march toward hotter temperatures around the globe. But by predicting the tipping point when traditional climates will be replaced by hotter futures, the new study’s group – led by Camilo Mora, an assistant professor in the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s geography department – provided a fresh
way to look at a problem that often is seen as a global phenomenon.