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Parts of the Caribbean and Central America are likely to have less summer rain

perature change to detect, and requires great precision; the models do not all agree, but the majority of them do," Neelin said. "A slight error -- for example, whether the wind is flowing from a dry region into the convection zone, or whether the wind is blowing past the convection zone without going into it -- can cause one model to have a drought in a particular region, while another model does not. You have to be careful when talking about precipitation; there is natural variability, from year to year and from decade-to-decade."

The computer climate simulations also agree on the magnitude of drying trends in other regions within the tropics but disagree on where it will occur. The Caribbean/Central-American region is an example where the models agree reasonably well.

Neelin's research is federally funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In addition to analyzing the computer simulations, Neelin and his colleagues analyzed satellite precipitation data available since 1979, and rain gauge measurements since the 1950s. Over the last 50 years, the Caribbean has experienced a trend of decreased summer precipitation, but not a dramatic one, Neelin said. The computer models predict that will be a continuing trend.

"We can't exclude that the precipitation decrease over the last 50 years is part of a natural cycle, unrelated to global warming," Neelin said. "It is plausible that the decrease is due to global warming, but there is not yet a 'smoking gun' that shows that to be the case."

Co-authors on the PNAS article are Matthias Münnich, a UCLA researcher in atmospheric and oceanic sciences; Hui Su, a former UCLA researcher now at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Joyce Meyerson, a UCLA researcher in atmospheric and oceanic sciences; and Chris Holloway, a UCLA graduate student in atmospheric and oceanic sciences.

Neelin conducts research on processes that govern
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Source:University of California - Los Angeles


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