A new NASA-led study shows human-caused climate change has made an impact on a wide range of Earth’s natural systems, including permafrost thawing, plants blooming earlier across Europe, and lakes declining in productivity in Africa. Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Science and 10 other institutions have linked varying impacts since 1970 with rises in temperatures during that period. “Humans are influencing climate through increasing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Cynthia Rosenzweig, lead author of the study. “The warming is causing impacts on physical and biological systems that are now attributable at the global scale and in North America, Europe, and Asia.”
“This is the first study to link global temperature data sets, climate model results, and observed changes in a broad range of physical and biological systems to show the link between humans, climate, and impacts,” said Rosenzweig.
The researchers built and analyzed a database of more than 29,000 data series pertaining to observed impacts on Earth’s natural systems. The data were collected from about 80 studies, each with at least 20 years of records between 1970 and 2004.
Observed impacts included changes to physical systems, such as glaciers shrinking, permafrost melting, and lakes and rivers warming. Biological systems also were impacted in a variety of ways, such as leaves unfolding and flowers blooming earlier in the spring, birds arriving earlier during migration periods, and plant and animal species moving toward Earth’s poles and higher in elevation. In aquatic environments such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, plankton and fish are shifting from cold-adapted to warm-adapted communities.
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About 90 percent of observed changes in varying physical and biological systems are consistent with warming. But other driving forces, such as land use change from forest to agriculture, were ruled out as having significant influence on the observed impacts.
Next, the scientists conducted statistical tests and found the patterns of observed impacts closely match temperature trends across the globe, to a degree beyond what can be attributed to natural variability. The team concluded observed global-scale impacts are very likely because of human-caused warming.
Original News Source: NASA press release