SciCombinator

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Concept: Precipitation

354

The evolutionary reasons for variation in nose shape across human populations have been subject to continuing debate. An import function of the nose and nasal cavity is to condition inspired air before it reaches the lower respiratory tract. For this reason, it is thought the observed differences in nose shape among populations are not simply the result of genetic drift, but may be adaptations to climate. To address the question of whether local adaptation to climate is responsible for nose shape divergence across populations, we use Qst-Fst comparisons to show that nares width and alar base width are more differentiated across populations than expected under genetic drift alone. To test whether this differentiation is due to climate adaptation, we compared the spatial distribution of these variables with the global distribution of temperature, absolute humidity, and relative humidity. We find that width of the nares is correlated with temperature and absolute humidity, but not with relative humidity. We conclude that some aspects of nose shape may indeed have been driven by local adaptation to climate. However, we think that this is a simplified explanation of a very complex evolutionary history, which possibly also involved other non-neutral forces such as sexual selection.

Concepts: Natural selection, Precipitation, Respiratory system, Humidity, Relative humidity, Population genetics, Nose, Charles Darwin

233

California is currently in the midst of a record-setting drought. The drought began in 2012 and now includes the lowest calendar-year and 12-mo precipitation, the highest annual temperature, and the most extreme drought indicators on record. The extremely warm and dry conditions have led to acute water shortages, groundwater overdraft, critically low streamflow, and enhanced wildfire risk. Analyzing historical climate observations from California, we find that precipitation deficits in California were more than twice as likely to yield drought years if they occurred when conditions were warm. We find that although there has not been a substantial change in the probability of either negative or moderately negative precipitation anomalies in recent decades, the occurrence of drought years has been greater in the past two decades than in the preceding century. In addition, the probability that precipitation deficits co-occur with warm conditions and the probability that precipitation deficits produce drought have both increased. Climate model experiments with and without anthropogenic forcings reveal that human activities have increased the probability that dry precipitation years are also warm. Further, a large ensemble of climate model realizations reveals that additional global warming over the next few decades is very likely to create ∼100% probability that any annual-scale dry period is also extremely warm. We therefore conclude that anthropogenic warming is increasing the probability of co-occurring warm-dry conditions like those that have created the acute human and ecosystem impacts associated with the “exceptional” 2012-2014 drought in California.

Concepts: Earth, Precipitation, Climate, Climate change, Meteorology, Global warming, Extreme weather, Drought

182

Aerosolized microorganisms may play an important role in climate change, disease transmission, water and soil contaminants, and geographic migration of microbes. While it is known that bioaerosols are generated when bubbles break on the surface of water containing microbes, it is largely unclear how viable soil-based microbes are transferred to the atmosphere. Here we report a previously unknown mechanism by which rain disperses soil bacteria into the air. Bubbles, tens of micrometres in size, formed inside the raindrops disperse micro-droplets containing soil bacteria during raindrop impingement. A single raindrop can transfer 0.01% of bacteria on the soil surface and the bacteria can survive more than one hour after the aerosol generation process. This work further reveals that bacteria transfer by rain is highly dependent on the regional soil profile and climate conditions.

Concepts: Archaea, Water, Precipitation, Climate, Atmosphere, Microorganism, Aerosol, Soil contamination

174

Sulfate aerosols exert profound impacts on human and ecosystem health, weather, and climate, but their formation mechanism remains uncertain. Atmospheric models consistently underpredict sulfate levels under diverse environmental conditions. From atmospheric measurements in two Chinese megacities and complementary laboratory experiments, we show that the aqueous oxidation of SO2 by NO2 is key to efficient sulfate formation but is only feasible under two atmospheric conditions: on fine aerosols with high relative humidity and NH3 neutralization or under cloud conditions. Under polluted environments, this SO2 oxidation process leads to large sulfate production rates and promotes formation of nitrate and organic matter on aqueous particles, exacerbating severe haze development. Effective haze mitigation is achievable by intervening in the sulfate formation process with enforced NH3 and NO2 control measures. In addition to explaining the polluted episodes currently occurring in China and during the 1952 London Fog, this sulfate production mechanism is widespread, and our results suggest a way to tackle this growing problem in China and much of the developing world.

Concepts: Precipitation, Climate, Humidity, Relative humidity, Particulate, Smog, Psychrometrics, Fog

170

Mongolian Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica) is one of the principal tree species in the network of Three-North Shelterbelt for windbreak and sand stabilisation in China. The functions of shelterbelts are highly correlated with the architecture and eco-physiological processes of individual tree. Thus, model-assisted analysis of canopy architecture and function dynamic in Mongolian Scots pine is of value for better understanding its role and behaviour within shelterbelt ecosystems in these arid and semiarid regions. We present here a single-tree functional and structural model, derived from the GreenLab model, which is adapted for young Mongolian Scots pines by incorporation of plant biomass production, allocation, allometric rules and soil water dynamics. The model is calibrated and validated based on experimental measurements taken on Mongolian Scots pines in 2007 and 2006 under local meteorological conditions. Measurements include plant biomass, topology and geometry, as well as soil attributes and standard meteorological data. After calibration, the model allows reconstruction of three-dimensional (3D) canopy architecture and biomass dynamics for trees from one- to six-year-old at the same site using meteorological data for the six years from 2001 to 2006. Sensitivity analysis indicates that rainfall variation has more influence on biomass increment than on architecture, and the internode and needle compartments and the aboveground biomass respond linearly to increases in precipitation. Sensitivity analysis also shows that the balance between internode and needle growth varies only slightly within the range of precipitations considered here. The model is expected to be used to investigate the growth of Mongolian Scots pines in other regions with different soils and climates.

Concepts: Precipitation, Soil, Tree, Scots Pine, Pine, Pinus classification, Biomass, Pinus

167

Arid grassland ecosystems have significant interannual variation in carbon exchange; however, it is unclear how environmental factors influence carbon exchange in different hydrological years. In this study, the eddy covariance technique was used to investigate the seasonal and interannual variability of CO(2) flux over a temperate desert steppe in Inner Mongolia, China from 2008 to 2010. The amounts and times of precipitation varied significantly throughout the study period. The precipitation in 2009 (186.4 mm) was close to the long-term average (183.9±47.6 mm), while the precipitation in 2008 (136.3 mm) and 2010 (141.3 mm) was approximately a quarter below the long-term average. The temperate desert steppe showed carbon neutrality for atmospheric CO(2) throughout the study period, with a net ecosystem carbon dioxide exchange (NEE) of -7.2, -22.9, and 26.0 g C m(-2) yr(-1) in 2008, 2009, and 2010, not significantly different from zero. The ecosystem gained more carbon in 2009 compared to other two relatively dry years, while there was significant difference in carbon uptake between 2008 and 2010, although both years recorded similar annual precipitation. The results suggest that summer precipitation is a key factor determining annual NEE. The apparent quantum yield and saturation value of NEE (NEE(sat)) and the temperature sensitivity coefficient of ecosystem respiration (R(eco)) exhibited significant variations. The values of NEE(sat) were -2.6, -2.9, and -1.4 µmol CO(2) m(-2) s(-1) in 2008, 2009, and 2010, respectively. Drought suppressed both the gross primary production (GPP) and R(eco), and the drought sensitivity of GPP was greater than that of R(eco). The soil water content sensitivity of GPP was high during the dry year of 2008 with limited soil moisture availability. Our results suggest the carbon balance of this temperate desert steppe was not only sensitive to total annual precipitation, but also to its seasonal distribution.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Water, Earth, Precipitation, Climate, Soil, Hydrology, Drought

162

Several reviews have analyzed the factors that affect the change in soil organic C (SOC) when forest is converted to agricultural land; however, the effects of forest type and cultivation stage on these changes have generally been overlooked. We collated observations from 453 paired or chronosequential sites where forests have been converted to agricultural land and then assessed the effects of forest type, cultivation stage, climate factors, and soil properties on the change in the SOC stock and the SOC turnover rate constant (k). The percent decrease in SOC stocks and the turnover rate constants both varied significantly according to forest type and cultivation stage. The largest decrease in SOC stocks was observed in temperate regions (52% decrease), followed by tropical regions (41% decrease) and boreal regions (31% decrease). Climate and soil factors affected the decrease in SOC stocks. The SOC turnover rate constant after the conversion of forests to agricultural land increased with the mean annual precipitation and temperature. To our knowledge, this is the first time that original forest type was considered when evaluating changes in SOC after being converted to agricultural land. The differences between forest types should be considered when calculating global changes in SOC stocks.

Concepts: Precipitation, Climate, Soil, Affect, Ecosystem, Forest, Köppen climate classification, Arable land

159

Although severe thunderstorms are one of the primary causes of catastrophic loss in the United States, their response to elevated greenhouse forcing has remained a prominent source of uncertainty for climate change impacts assessment. We find that the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, Phase 5, global climate model ensemble indicates robust increases in the occurrence of severe thunderstorm environments over the eastern United States in response to further global warming. For spring and autumn, these robust increases emerge before mean global warming of 2 °C above the preindustrial baseline. We also find that days with high convective available potential energy (CAPE) and strong low-level wind shear increase in occurrence, suggesting an increasing likelihood of atmospheric conditions that contribute to the most severe events, including tornadoes. In contrast, whereas expected decreases in mean wind shear have been used to argue for a negative influence of global warming on severe thunderstorms, we find that decreases in shear are in fact concentrated in days with low CAPE and therefore do not decrease the total occurrence of severe environments. Further, we find that the shift toward high CAPE is most concentrated in days with low convective inhibition, increasing the occurrence of high-CAPE/low-convective inhibition days. The fact that the projected increases in severe environments are robust across a suite of climate models, emerge in response to relatively moderate global warming, and result from robust physical changes suggests that continued increases in greenhouse forcing are likely to increase severe thunderstorm occurrence, thereby increasing the risk of thunderstorm-related damage.

Concepts: Precipitation, Climate, Weather, Climate change, Thunderstorm, Global climate model, Severe weather, Wind shear

134

Climate change is causing more frequent and intense storms, and climate models predict this trend will continue, potentially affecting wildlife populations. Since 1960 the number of days with >20 mm of rain increased near Punta Tombo, Argentina. Between 1983 and 2010 we followed 3496 known-age Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) chicks at Punta Tombo to determine how weather impacted their survival. In two years, rain was the most common cause of death killing 50% and 43% of chicks. In 26 years starvation killed the most chicks. Starvation and predation were present in all years. Chicks died in storms in 13 of 28 years and in 16 of 233 storms. Storm mortality was additive; there was no relationship between the number of chicks killed in storms and the numbers that starved (P = 0.75) or that were eaten (P = 0.39). However, when more chicks died in storms, fewer chicks fledged (P = 0.05, R (2) = 0.14). More chicks died when rainfall was higher and air temperature lower. Most chicks died from storms when they were 9-23 days old; the oldest chick killed in a storm was 41 days old. Storms with heavier rainfall killed older chicks as well as more chicks. Chicks up to 70 days old were killed by heat. Burrow nests mitigated storm mortality (N = 1063). The age span of chicks in the colony at any given time increased because the synchrony of egg laying decreased since 1983, lengthening the time when chicks are vulnerable to storms. Climate change that increases the frequency and intensity of storms results in more reproductive failure of Magellanic penguins, a pattern likely to apply to many species breeding in the region. Climate variability has already lowered reproductive success of Magellanic penguins and is likely undermining the resilience of many other species.

Concepts: Precipitation, Climate, Weather, Climate change, Penguin, Penguins, Magellanic Penguin, Punta Tombo

122

A rapidly growing body of research examines whether human conflict can be affected by climatic changes. Drawing from archaeology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, and psychology, we assemble and analyze the 60 most rigorous quantitative studies and document, for the first time, a striking convergence of results. We find strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world. The magnitude of climate’s influence is substantial: for each one standard deviation (1σ) change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%. Because locations throughout the inhabited world are expected to warm 2σ to 4σ by 2050, amplified rates of human conflict could represent a large and critical impact of anthropogenic climate change.

Concepts: Earth, Precipitation, Climate, Weather, Sociology, Climate change, Social sciences, Global warming