A climatic phenomenon located on a very distant continent can influence the weather of a country located on the other side of the world, and therefore, possibly trigger a weather disaster. A new study explains that “teleconnections” exist between certain extreme weather phenomena around the world.
Can a heat wave in South America have an impact on temperatures on the other side of the world, in Asia for example? Yes, according to a team of international researchers who have worked on the links between the different climate tipping points. These are thresholds that should not be crossed. If they topple, they will have irreversible consequences on our planet. Among these tipping points, we find for example the melting of the ice of Greenland, or the disappearance of coral reefs and the Amazonian forest. The study published in the journal Nature, at the beginning of January, affirms that they each have links between them, influencing each other, even if they are very distant geographically. A climatic event that occurs in one region of the world could therefore have an impact on the other side of the planet.
There would be climatic links over more than 20,000 kilometers
To understand these amazing correlations, Beijing Normal University analyzed weather data from 1979 to 2019. Among all the tipping points, the researchers decided to focus mainly on the consequences of the degradation of the Amazon rainforest: quite simply , because it is a region very degraded by human activities, but also because its importance is crucial for the sequestration of CO2. It is a major carbon sink, which plays an obvious role in the fight against global warming. Unfortunately, due to deforestation and climate change, the Amazon is dangerously drying up. Disappearance, degradation and fragmentation of the great forests of the world (Amazonia, Australia, Asia or Africa) are among the tipping points that are capable of modifying the climatic functioning of our Planet.
The scientists who carried out the study explain that all the tipping points are connected over great distances, from one continent to another, even if we cannot yet understand them. Among these links, they have identified what they call very clear “teleconnections” that stretch over 20,000 kilometers: from South America (where the Amazon rainforest is located), to South Africa, to in the Middle East, then to the Tibetan plateau. There would thus be an obvious correlation between the loss of ice cover on the Tibetan plateau and the degradation of the Amazonian forest linked to human activities, linked to atmospheric and oceanic circulation, which is decisive for the functioning of the climate and biodiversity on Earth.
Scientists have discovered that the weather extremes of the two zones furthest from this circulation are completely linked: when it is abnormally hot in the Amazon, it is also abnormally hot in Tibet! However, the link is different with regard to precipitation: when the rains are abundant in the Amazon, there is on the other hand less snow in Tibet. Also with Antarctica, the teleconnections are the same: the heat in the Amazon is followed by abnormally high temperatures in western Antarctica and heavy rains in the Amazon are associated with drier weather in Antarctica.
Links that are not yet unanimous, but which open up new fields of possibilities
When this study was published in Nature, some scientists were skeptical about the conclusions of the Normal University of Beijing, other climatologists believe that the surface occupied by the Amazon is too small to have such a great influence. But if the conclusions of the study were right, then the analysis of the Chinese researchers opens up an immense field of possibilities concerning connections throughout the world. Everyone has indeed noticed that natural disasters, or quite simply extreme weather in terms of temperature and precipitation, often occur in series, even if they take place on different continents. The study on the consequences of the degradation of the Amazon is not yet unanimous, but other meteorological connections a little less distant have been suspected for many years: the melting of the ice in the Arctic and its influence on the circulation Atlantic currents, which then partly direct the weather conditions in South America. Others still remain to be proven, even if the link seems to be confirmed more and more, such as the extent of snow-covered surfaces in Siberia and its impact on the risk of cold waves in Western Europe.
The study of the different climatic connections around the world is only in its infancy. But it already makes it possible to realize that the degradation of a geographical area which seems very distant to us can have a direct impact on the area in which we also live. Researchers speak of a veritable “domino effect”. Carbon emissions, and the destruction of natural lands, know no borders.
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