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Tropical Deforestation affects rainfall in the U.S. and around the globe

Today, scientists estimate that between one-third and one-half of our planet's land surfaces have been transformed by human development.

Now, a new study is offering insight into the long-term impacts of these changes, particularly the effects of large-scale deforestation in tropical regions on the global climate. Researchers from Duke University, Durham, N.C., analyzed multiple years of data using the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies General Circulation Computer Model (GCM) and Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) to produce several climate simulations. Their research found that deforestation in different areas of the globe affects rainfall patterns over a considerable region.

Deforestation in the Amazon region of South America (Amazonia) influences rainfall from Mexico to Texas and in the Gulf of Mexico. Similarly, deforesting lands in Central Africa affects precipitation in the upper and lower U.S Midwest, while deforestation in Southeast Asia was found to alter rainfall in China and the Balkan Peninsula. It is important to note that such changes primarily occur in certain seasons and that the combination of deforestation in these areas enhances rain in one region while reducing it in another.

This finding contradicts earlier research suggesting deforestation would result in a reduction in precipitation and increase in temperature in the Amazon basin, but carry no detectable impact on the global water cycle.

"Our study carried somewhat surprising results, showing that although the major impact of deforestation on precipitation is found in and near the deforested regions, it also has a strong influence on rainfall in the mid and even high latitudes," said Roni Avissar, lead author of the study, published in the April 2005 issue of the Journal of Hydrometeorology.

Specifically, deforestation of Amazonia was found to severely reduce rainfall in the Gulf of Mexico, Texas, and northern Mexico during the sprin
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Source:NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office


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