You’ve probably heard by now that temperature extremes – heat waves and cold spells such as those we’ve experienced in recent months in North America, Europe and Asia – are likely to occur more frequently as Earth climate warms. A study published in the March 2012 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres suggests that land use change also has a big impact on extreme temperature events.
F. B. Avila of the Climate Change Research Center, University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia was lead author on the paper that contrasted the effect of climate warming to the effect of land use change – such as clearing forests for agriculture – to determine the relative contribution of the two effects. His team ran simulations using a climate model coupled to a sophisticated land surface model.
They found that land use changes can have a significant effect on temperature extremes. On regional scales, land use changes in some cases amplified climate warming, while land use changes in other cases masked their effects.
These authors concluded that land use changes are a major source of human influence on the climate.
Bottom line: Land use changes contribute to temperature extremes, according to an Australian study. Sometimes, land use changes amplify the effects of climate warming, and sometimes they mask warming.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.