The TiPES project was launched in September 2019 and its primary objective is to better quantify the tipping elements that are present in the climate system and to ensure that climate projections also include these in their calculations. The project has been highly active recently, pumping out several fascinating studies, including a very recent one that argues that droughts in the Amazon rainforest can be predicted up to 18 months in advance.
Droughts affect millions of people worldwide, including those in the Amazon basin, the site of one of the most threatened ecosystems on Earth due to human-driven climate change. The new open access TiPES (Tipping Points in the Earth System) study, published in the journal ‘Environmental Research Letters’) has revealed how surface temperatures in two coupled areas of the tropical Atlantic Ocean can be used to accurately predict severe droughts in the Amazon region.
The analysis showed that when two specific areas of the Atlantic, situated north and south of each other, start to go out of phase (aka when temperatures rise in one and decrease in the other), the Amazon is likely to experience a severe drought within 1-1.5 years. Studying this phenomenon and being able to make such an accurate prediction would help to mitigate the severe impact such a drought would have on the millions of people who live within and rely daily on the Amazon ecosystem.
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“For the first time, we can accurately predict drought in the tropical regions of South America as far as 18 months in advance. The two crucial factors in this research are the selection of the precise, relevant locations in the Atlantic Ocean, and the observation that the correlation between the southern and the northern ocean regions can be used for prediction.”
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