Climate change alters the ecological impacts of seasons

October 9, 2014
Clouds over Australia are shown. Credit: NASA

If more of the world's climate becomes like that in tropical zones, it could potentially affect crops, insects, malaria transmission, and even confuse migration patterns of birds and mammals worldwide. George Wang, a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, is part of a research tandem that has found that the daily and nightly differences in temperatures worldwide are fast approaching yearly differences between summer and winter temperatures.

Only recently, the UN Climate Summit came together in New York to further address the necessary measures to protect the Earth from a dramatic climate change. It has long been recognised that an increase of the average temperature will cause rising oceans and thus flooded landscapes. Particularly, regions close to the coasts are endangered. While it is well known that climate change has increased average temperatures, it is less clear how temperature variability has altered with climate change.

Postdoctoral fellow George Wang, from Detlef Weigel's Department for Molecular Biology at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, has now examined this issue in more depth.

He realized that existing climate measures did not provide enough information to predict the life history responses, such as hatching, hibernation, or flowering of organisms. Together with his partner Michael Dillon, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Zoology and Physiology, University of Wyoming, USA, he started to analyse climate conditions since records began to be kept.

"We describe, for the first time, changes in temperature variability across the globe. We've had a long discussion about changes in the mean temperature. It has been ongoing for over 30 years," says George Wang. "It's very clear mean temperatures have shifted across the globe. It's less clear if the variation in temperature has changed."

For example, the variability in temperature could potentially mean bugs survive for a longer period in non-tropical regions. The result could be increased crop damage from pest insects or spread of diseases, such as malaria transmitted by mosquitoes.

In addition, plants in temperate regions are adapted to use temperature to tell the season. This is how they know when to produce flowers and fruits. As daily temperature cycles become more extreme, it becomes harder for plants to behave appropriately to the season. Therefore, plants might produce flowers too early or too late, and so there might be some years where certain fruits never appear.

Wang is first author of a paper, titled "Recent Geographic Convergence in Diurnal and Annual Temperature Cycling Flattens Global Thermal Profiles," that was published last Sunday (Sept. 28) in the online edition of Nature Climate Change. Dillon is the paper's co-writer. The monthly journal is dedicated to publishing the most significant and cutting-edge research on the science of climate change, its impacts and wider implications for the economy, society and policy.

Wang and Dillon first estimated global spacial variation in the mean temperature and in temperature cycling by analysing more than 1 billion temperature measurements from 7,906 weather stations that sampled from the period of Jan. 1, 1926, through Dec. 31, 2009. Analysis of monthly and yearly averages of daily temperature extremes reveals that daily and annual minimum and maximum temperatures have increased across the world since 1950. The scientists then estimated global changes in the magnitudes of diurnal and annual temperature cycles from 1975-2013.

The research was "very computationally intensive", as Michael Dillon points out. The researchers had to use computer clusters on two continents, with the majority of the work performed on the cluster at the MPI for Developmental Biology. They also used a new mathematical technique to describe how temperature changes from day to night, and winter to summer, thus characterizing the variability of temperature over the globe.

According to this, the changes have been most dramatic for places closest to the poles and far from oceans. "In these places, warmer winters—decreasing the difference between summer and winter—and hotter days—increasing the difference between day and night—mean that the range of temperatures, which organisms experience over a few days, is closer to the range of temperatures they experience over an entire year. These patterns are strongest in Canada and Russia, but occur even in Germany," explains Wang. "For example, in Wiesbaden, in 1992, the average difference between day and night was 1.2 degrees, while the average difference between summer and winter was 24.8 degrees. In 2012, the day/night cycle was 5.2 degrees, while the summer/winter cycle was 18.9, so the daily is now much more similar to the yearly variability. Compare this to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, where the day/night difference is about 4.3 degrees and the summer/winter difference is about 6.7—it has not changed very much."

The range of diurnal temperature cycling (DTC), meaning the change in temperature from the daytime high to nighttime low, was lowest at the poles, intermediate at the tropics and was relatively small close to large bodies of water and at lower elevations, according to the study. The range of annual temperature cycling (ATC), meaning temperatures for any given location will go through a regular cycle on an annual basis, was lowest at the tropics and increased toward the poles.

"For these temperature zones that we historically think of as having lower daily variations relative to the annual variations in temperatures, what we found in these zones is that the ATC has not changed much in the last 30 to 40 years," Michael Dillon explains. "But, the DTC has gone up considerably. If the annual is constant and daily temperatures increase, areas outside the tropics will become more tropical. This idea of convergence could be a really important thing."

The findings show that no place is safe from climate change. "Most people are rightly concerned about sea level rise, but feel that this will not affect them if they don't live next to the ocean. We find that places far from the oceans will have be biggest changes in daily and seasonal variability, because they are far away from the buffering effects of oceans", says Wang. Therefore, there would be no places immune from effects of , and this would have consequences on crops, parasites, and disease.

Explore further: Researcher observes temperature variability across the world

More information: Wang, G.; Dillon, Michael E. Recent geographic convergence in diurnal and annual temperature cycling flattens global thermal profiles. Nature Climate Change; online advance publication 28 September 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2378

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21 comments

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gkam
3.4 / 5 (13) Oct 09, 2014
We can live without an economy or without rich folk, as we did for a few million years, but cannot exist without a supportive environment to make our Oxygen, clean our water, and provide us with food.
freethinking
2 / 5 (16) Oct 09, 2014
Don't worry, AGW temperature rise has been put on hold.

Too bad we can't put on hold all the Profiteers of AGW, like Profit Al Gore.
gkam
3.7 / 5 (15) Oct 09, 2014
Look up the ten hottest years in history and get back to us.
gkam
3.6 / 5 (17) Oct 09, 2014
Our nation has been polluted by Petroleum Profiteers, not AGW activists.
gkam
3.6 / 5 (14) Oct 09, 2014
We must go to low-carbon technologies for the sake of the economy.

http://www.fierce...internal
teslaberry
1.9 / 5 (9) Oct 09, 2014
We must go to low-carbon technologies for the sake of the economy.

http://www.fierce...internal


half the world has low carbon tech---it's called africa and the poorest parts of asia.
TegiriNenashi
1.3 / 5 (12) Oct 09, 2014
"...The findings show that no place is safe from climate change..."

-- asserted Mr Wang --

"... for example, you may think that reproductive functions wont be affected. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is proven that heated conditions lead to a certain loss of breeding capabilities in mammals... Yes, question from the audience".

"Why is your research is so focused on genitalia?"

"Because when you are impotant, everything else is not impotant"
freethinking
1.6 / 5 (14) Oct 09, 2014
gkam, The biggest garbage producers ARE AGW and other environmentalist groups.

Bet you haven't been to a park or rally area after a AGW or Environmentalist rally have you? Garbage, trash, litter, graffiti, and broken things everywhere. Hypocrites.

The cleanest rallies are those from conservatives.... they seem to pick up after themselves and leave the place cleaner than Progressive Environmentalists. But hey, Progressive democrats by definition are hypocrites.
freethinking
1.6 / 5 (14) Oct 09, 2014
AGW promised that summers would be warmer and there would be less snow in the summer....woops...
http://stevengodd...america/

Oh and the great lakes, they are colder right now than last year
http://coastwatch...1024.dat

Didn't AGW profiteers like Al Gore promise us that we couldn't ice skate outside anymore in the winter?

My guess is this is going to be another record COLD winter with the great lakes freezing again at historic rates.
MR166
2.1 / 5 (16) Oct 09, 2014
"We can live without an economy or without rich folk, as we did for a few million years, but cannot exist without a supportive environment to make our Oxygen, clean our water, and provide us with food."

This is the most hilarious post that I have read in years.

He/she sits at a Keyboard and laments the industrialized fossil fuel driven economy that makes modern existence possible. Yup we should all return to a hunter/gatherer society. Gaia be praised!
MR166
2.1 / 5 (14) Oct 09, 2014
"Climate change alters the ecological impacts of seasons"

What ground breaking research this is. Who would have "thunk" that the ecology of the earth would have changed in the 18K years since the glaciers covered the northern hemisphere.
MR166
1.9 / 5 (14) Oct 09, 2014
"Oh and the great lakes, they are colder right now than last year."

Free you just don't "understand". The Great Lakes could freeze solid in November and all that would prove is that some ocean somewhere is absorbing more heat than "normal".

There always is and always will be an explanation for the lack of warming.
MR166
1.7 / 5 (11) Oct 09, 2014
BTW "Freethinking" your moniker is really annoying. Don't you realize that 100s of millions of dollars have been spent on propaganda insuring that we all "think" alike.
runrig
3.9 / 5 (11) Oct 09, 2014
My guess is this is going to be another record COLD winter with the great lakes freezing again at historic rates


Quite possibly.
However the flaw in your denialist argument, is that (typically) you think of the US as the "world"..... Or at least the NH, the rest of which had an average to mild winter, as did indeed the western and Southern States.
FFS
Vietvet
3.5 / 5 (8) Oct 09, 2014
"Quite possibly.
However the flaw in your denialist argument, is that (typically) you think of the US as the "world"..... Or at least the NH, the rest of which had an average to mild winter, as did indeed the western and Southern States.
FFS"

California had the warmest winter since records have been kept (1870).

freethinking
1.4 / 5 (11) Oct 09, 2014
Pot calling the kettle black.

Just replace denialist with AGW

However the flaw in your AGW argument, is that (typically) you think of the US as the "world"..... Or at least the NH, the rest of which had an average to mild winter, as did indeed the western and Southern States.

How many more years of AGW being on hold before you AGW believers start asking for your carbon credits back?
Vietvet
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 09, 2014
@freethinking
@fulldisclosure
I don't make things up, unlike deniers.

http://online.wsj...05981998
MR166
1.4 / 5 (10) Oct 09, 2014
"Quite possibly.
However the flaw in your denialist argument, is that (typically) you think of the US as the "world"..... Or at least the NH, the rest of which had an average to mild winter, as did indeed the western and Southern States."

Ah, yet another terminal case of SRD (Selective Recollection Disorder). There were record snowfalls in many parts of Europe last winter. But I have to admit, the Equator and Southern Hemisphere were free from snow during that period.
freethinking
1 / 5 (10) Oct 09, 2014
MR166 quit trying to make the AGW believers think freely..... It hurts their Progressive Brain if they actually have to think about their Democratic National Parties talking points that they're spouting. Remember many of the Posters here are PPGT (Paid Progressive Government Trolls) free thinking is not allowed for them.
freethinking
1 / 5 (5) Oct 13, 2014
New fact, we all know that there hasn't been an increase in surface temps for almost two decades, so the AGW Profits have been saying all the heat is going into the deep oceans.....
but Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, analyzed satellite and direct ocean temperature data from 2005 to 2013 and found the ocean abyss below 1.24 miles (1,995 meters) has not warmed measurably.

You AGW believers.... when will you be asking for your carbon credits alms back?
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Oct 14, 2014
Ah, yet another terminal case of SRD (Selective Recollection Disorder). There were record snowfalls in many parts of Europe last winter.... period
@Mr166
actually, the SRD is on your part

nice attempt to obfuscate the truth though (NOT)

After all, you've been provided with ample evidence describing the WHY, as well as HOW AGW affects weather in this manner...
And you never did refute that paper either.

Tell you what, why don't you pick it apart here in this thread. I will give you the study AGAIN (what is the, the 3rd time for you, but at least the 15th time in the past 4 months)

Give me empirical evidence that this following is wrong: http://marine.rut..._pub.pdf
Here is the video accompanyment to the study in which she describes her work (for those deniers who can't comprehend the science): https://www.youtu...m9JAdfcs

Don't forget to supply evidence

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