We spend a lot of our time looking at research and studies that focuses on one particular aspect of the planet. Rarely does anyone spend the time to look at a multitude of aspects, to acquire a look at the overall picture. It seems like science is all about proving the big picture by proving a small portion of that big picture.
However critics will be the first to tell us that the small picture does not necessarily reflect the big picture. Just like a jigsaw of the planet Earth, you might think that the whole planet is blue if they are the only pieces of the puzzle you saw, but look at it in total, and you’ll find a few solid bits as well!
So that is why a new study has assembled information never before gathered together in one spot. The study looked at a vast array of physical and biological systems across our planet, and looked at if and how they were being affected by global warming. The study appears in the May 15 issue of the journal Nature.
“Humans are influencing climate through increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and the warming world is causing impacts on physical and biological systems attributable at the global scale,” said lead author Cynthia Rosenzweig, a scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Columbia Center for Climate Systems Research.
Rozenweig was one of a number of scientists from 10 other institutions around the world, that looked at data gathered from papers published on 829 physical systems and some 28,800 plant and animal systems, stretching back to 1970. Their subsequent analysis revealed changes on a continental scale, rather than the smaller field of scope previously attributed to these studies.
Their analysis showed that in physical systems, 95% of observed changes are attributable to current warming trends. Examples of such include the deglaciation of glaciers across all continents; melting permafrost; an earlier spring runoff; and a mass warming of water bodies.
The observed changes on living things saw 90% of changes consistent with human-made warming. The earlier leafing of trees and plants over a variety of regions; movements of species to higher latitudes and altitudes in the Northern Hemisphere; changes in bird migration over Europe, North America and Australia; and the shifting of plankton and fish from cold- to warm-adapted communities are some of the physical effects taking place.
“It was a real challenge to separate the influence of human-caused temperature increases from natural climate variations or other confounding factors, such as land-use changes or pollution,” said coauthor David Karoly, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. “This was possible only through the combined efforts of our multi-disciplinary team, which examined observed changes in many different systems around the globe, as well as global climate model simulations of temperature changes.”
Image Courtesy of Nature