Warming climate is changing life on global scale, says new study

May 14, 2008
Warming climate is changing life on global scale, says new study
Temperatures over Asia, 1970-2004. Credit: Nature

A vast array of physical and biological systems across the earth are being affected by warming temperatures caused by humans, says a new analysis of information not previously assembled all in one spot. The effects on living things include earlier leafing of trees and plants over many regions; movements of species to higher latitudes and altitudes in the northern hemisphere; changes in bird migrations in Europe, North America and Australia; and shifting of the oceans’ plankton and fish from cold- to warm-adapted communities. The study appears in the May 15 issue of the leading scientific journal Nature.

“Humans are influencing climate through increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and the warming world is causing impacts on physical and biological systems attributable at the global scale,” said lead author Cynthia Rosenzweig, a scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Columbia Center for Climate Systems Research. Both are affiliates of The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Rosenzweig and researchers from 10 other institutions across the world analyzed data from published papers on 829 physical systems and some 28,800 plant and animal systems, stretching back to 1970. Their analysis of revealed a picture of changes on continental scales; previous studies had looked mainly at single phenomena, or smaller areas. In physical systems, 95% of observed changes are consistent with warming trends.

These include wastage of glaciers on all continents; melting permafrost; earlier spring river runoff; and warming of water bodies. Among living creatures inhabiting such systems, 90% of changes are consistent with warming.

The researchers say it is unlikely that any force but human-influenced climate change could be driving all this; factors like deforestation or natural climate variations could not explain it. Their work builds upon the consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in 2007 declared manmade climate warming “likely” to have discernible effects on biological and physical systems.

“It was a real challenge to separate the influence of human-caused temperature increases from natural climate variations or other confounding factors, such as land-use changes or pollution,” said coauthor David Karoly, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. “This was possible only through the combined efforts of our multi-disciplinary team, which examined observed changes in many different systems around the globe, as well as global climate model simulations of temperature changes.”

The data showing the patterns of change are strongest in North America, Asia and Europe--mainly because far more studies have been done there, said Rosenzweig. On the other continents, including South America, Australia and Africa, documentation of changes in physical and biological systems is sparse, even though there is good evidence there of human-influenced warming itself. The authors say that there is an urgent need to study these environmental systems, especially in tropical and subtropical areas.

Source: The Earth Institute at Columbia University

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6 comments

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Damon
2.7 / 5 (7) May 14, 2008
Where are all the anti-global warming nuts with their comments? Usually, an article on climate change is denigrated when there is even a suggestion of some flaw in the data...
mikiwud
3 / 5 (4) May 15, 2008
OK then Damon,here goes,
What Global Warming? These "scientists still come up with a scare when their own data shows it has not warmed in the last decade.Even "computer models" favoured by the IPCC shows probable cooling over the next decade.real scientists say it may last even longer.Any change is natural.
Feel better now?
Damon
3.7 / 5 (3) May 15, 2008
Did you even read the article? "In physical systems, 95% of observed changes are consistent with warming trends. These include wastage of glaciers on all continents; melting permafrost; earlier spring river runoff; and warming of water bodies. Among living creatures inhabiting such systems, 90% of changes are consistent with warming. The researchers say it is unlikely that any force but human-influenced climate change could be driving all this; factors like deforestation or natural climate variations could not explain it. Their work builds upon the consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in 2007 declared manmade climate warming likely to have discernible effects on biological and physical systems."
mikiwud
1 / 5 (2) May 16, 2008
Damon,
I read articles from ALL sources.I also have an open mind on global warming.I am sceptical that any change is mainly the fault of mankind.What annoys me is when people (sheeple?) ignore DATA from the main measuring centres,including their "own" side if it does not fit their belief.
MEASUEMENTS of global temperatures shows no real increase in the past decade and a drop in the last year.Historical data shows that CO2 is NOT the main driver in the past,so why should the laws of nature change now for Al Gore,Jim Hanson and the IPCC?
A lot of recent articles (papers?) are obviously biased to ofset the effects of recent DATA that goes against the belief.Don't take everything at face value.I you have the time,try to look at both sides of an arguement,not pick the bits that suit your belief.
I am,and you should be,sceptical of any article that brings in "Manmade Global Warming","Greenhouse Gases",etc when not basically relevent to the main point of the article.This type of propaganda is pushing my open mind further through the closing door.
Unlikely,likely,percentage,etc is not very scientific.
The statements of cooling come from the same sources as all the IPCC data,so if I am ranked low by readers it only goes to prove my point of bias.Please do,and enjoy,researching BOTH sides of the arguement.Somethings ARE changing and we should open our minds to the fact that it is not (all) down to CO2 and research the lot.
Damon
5 / 5 (2) May 16, 2008
I, too, try to look at both sides of the issue. However, I find that the evidence is overwhelming in favor of the hypothesis that the current (150 year) increase in mean global temperatures is at least partly the result of human activity. Just as an aside, the naysayers invariably bring up Al Gore's name, like he invented this giant conspiracy to ?? what - get rich? That is one argument I heard. Is this a conspiracy by "THEM"?
DrPhysics
1 / 5 (2) May 18, 2008
Damon,
Even in your own post you negate your position. You state '.......... researchers *say* it is *unlikely* that any force ......' Scientists are not supposed to SAY, they are supposed to prove, which they haven't done. At best man's involvement is a moderate correlation to the warming. Certainly no proof of cause and effect. So, please, continue to believe what you will ...... that doesn't make it so.

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