Weather connections between distant areas exist
A meteorological phenomenon occurring on a distant continent can influence the weather, even generating a natural disaster, in a country located on the other side of the planet. A recent study shows that there are teleconnections between certain extreme weather phenomena, regardless of their location on the planet.
International researchers have worked on the links between the thresholds that must not be crossed to avoid irreversible consequences for the planet, called climate tipping points, and believe that the relationship between remote weather phenomena does exist. The best-known tipping points that can alter the Earth’s climate functioning are, for example, the melting of Greenland ice, the disappearance of coral reefs or the disappearance of the Amazon rainforest and other large forests around the world.
The study was published in January 2023 in the journal Nature and states that these different tipping points are related and influence each other even though they are far apart. To better understand these relationships, Beijing Normal University analyzed weather data between 1979 and 2019.
The researchers focused mainly on the consequences of the gradual disappearance of the Amazon rainforest, as human activities have strongly degraded the area and it is particularly important for CO2 sequestration. The Amazon rainforest is a major carbon sink essential in the fight against global warming, but it is drying up dangerously due to deforestation and global warming. Scientists have identified a teleconnection between South America in the Amazon rainforest and South Africa, the Middle East and the Tibetan plateau. The tipping points are thus connected over great distances, of the order of 20,000 kilometers, and cover several continents.
For example, there is a correlation between the decrease in ice cover on the Tibetan plateau and the degradation of the Amazon forest due to human activities, but also to the atmospheric and oceanic circulation that helps determine the climate and the presence of biodiversity.
Scientists have realized that the extreme meteorological phenomena of these two remote areas were particularly linked when it is abnormally hot in the Amazon, it is abnormally hot in Tibet, and conversely, when the precipitation is abundant in the Amazon, the snow is not very abundant in Tibet. A teleconnection also exists with Antarctica, with heat in Amazonia corresponding to abnormally high temperatures in Antarctica and heavy rainfall in Amazonia corresponding to dry weather in Antarctica.
On reading the conclusions of the study, some scientists and climatologists question the veracity of this link, believing for example that the surface area occupied by the Amazon is too small to have such an influence. If the connections do exist, they could explain why extreme weather events often occur in series on different continents, whether it is rainfall, drought or extreme temperatures.
Before this study, some meteorological connections had been suspected for several years, such as the melting of ice in the Arctic, which influences the circulation of Atlantic currents, which in turn modifies part of the weather conditions in South America. Other connections are still at the stage of suppositions, even if they are becoming more and more precise, such as the extent of snow-covered surfaces in Siberia, which plays a role in the cold waves in Western Europe. The study of these climatic connections shows that the environmental degradation of a remote region can thus have direct effects on the area in which we live, scientists speak of a domino effect.