Tropics most sensitive to warming trends

High latitude regions of the planet like the Arctic are experiencing the greatest warming.  But tropical areas, which see a much smaller temperature range during the year, are showing the most significant signs of warming.

The warming signal in the tropics will likely exceed past temperature ranges in the next two decades. A global temperate increase of 1 degree Celsius is lower than all economically plausible emissions scenarios. But that one degree makes a huge difference in the tropics, and is outside the natural variability in temperatures.

That’s according to a recent paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Scientists at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich and NOAA Earth System Laboratory in Boulder were sifting through climate data and looking for signs of climate change on the local level. They evaluated what global temperature increase produced a “significantly different temperature regime” than early 20th century conditions.

To find new temperature regimes, the scientists had to differentiate the “noise” of local variability from the “signal” of global warming. Locations with high variability in temperatures throughout the year – namely the Arctic – are already adapted to some degree of warming in short timescales. But in the tropics, plants, insects, and reptiles may be quite vulnerable to climate change since they rarely see temperature swings, the authors of the study write.

Sadly, the most strongly affected countries also emit small amounts of CO2 per capita, meaning they have contributed little to the climate change that is now harming them.