The influence of tropical deforestation on the Northern Hemisphere climate by atmospheric teleconnections

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Numerous studies have identified the regional-scale climate response to tropical deforestation through changes to water, energy, and momentum fluxes between the land surface and the atmosphere. There has been little research, however, on the role of tropical deforestation on the global climate. Previous studies have focused on the climate response in the extratropics with little analysis of the mechanisms responsible for propagating the signal out of the tropics. A climate modeling study is presented of the physical processes that are important in transmitting a deforestation signal out of the tropics to the Northern Hemisphere extratropics in boreal winter. Using the Community Climate System Model, version 3 Integrated Biosphere Simulator (CCM3-IBIS) climate model and by imposing an exaggerated land surface forcing of complete tropical forest removal, the thermodynamic and dynamical atmospheric response is evaluated regionally within the tropics, globally as the climate signal propagates to the Northern Hemisphere, and then regionally in Eurasia where land-atmosphere feedbacks contribute to amplifying the climate signal and warming the surface and lower troposphere by 1-4 K. Model results indicate that removal of the tropical forests causes weakening of deep tropical convection that excites a Rossby wave train emanating northeastward away from the South American continent. Changes in European storm-track activity cause an intensification and northward shift in the Ferrel cell that leads to anomalous adiabatic warming over a broad region of Eurasia. Regional-scale land-atmosphere feedbacks are found to amplify the warming. While hypothetical, this approach illustrates the atmospheric mechanisms linking the tropics with Eurasia that may otherwise not be detectable with more realistic land-use change simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-34
Number of pages34
JournalEarth Interactions
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010


  • Deforestation
  • Teleconnection
  • Tropics


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