Climate change, the balance of scientific opinion now believes, is occurring, as a result of the increases of CO2 and other chemicals in the atmosphere. Clearly, this climatic change will itself change the natural vegetation on the Earth's surface, and also will change the pattern of land-use according to the changed opportunities and yields that may be expected at different locations. And, in turn, the surface vegetation and land-use is itself an important component affecting climate, as it changes the roughness of the surface, the colour, and the water vapour emissions. Therefore, both climate change and the changing patterns of vegetation cover and land-use are correctly described by the dynamic interaction of their spatial distributions. And, while the accent in climatic research has been on atmospheric physics and the effects of emissions, clearly, the human response to climate change is an important aspect for research, and it is here that our TIGER project has been concentrated.
Although double CO2 is an important reference milestone for modellers, so too is double human population and this will have a complex effect on the earth's vegetation through agriculture. The IERC has been involved in attempting to deal with the highly non-linear coupling of land-use and climate, as a spatial interaction, and our role has been to estimate the amount of land that might be under agriculture in 50 year increments to 2150, at which time it is currently projected that the human population will have stabilised at 11-12 billion.
The results of the project show that already, the present levels of agricultural production have had a significant effect on the climate, leading to local temperature differences of plus or minus 2C. The further transformation of all land suitable for agriculture will also cause additional changes in the patterns of temperature, and also particularly of precipitation. The averages changes in temperature are however, not very large - around 0.2C.
This work has been carried out by Dr. Steve Cousins, Mark Strathern and
Professor Peter Allen.
It is a NERC funded project.
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Last Updated: 7th October 1996.