Natural changes pinned to warming

Major changes in the Earth’s natural systems are being driven by global warming, according to a vast analysis.

Glacier and permafrost melting, earlier spring-time, coastal erosion and animal migrations are among the observations laid at the door of man-made warming.

The research, in the journal Nature, involves many scientists who took part in last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

It links warming and natural impacts on a tighter regional scale.

Changes in the Earth’s physical and biological systems since at least 1970 are seen in regions which are known to be warming, it concludes.

The researchers assembled a database including more than 29,500 records that documented changes seen across a wide range of natural phenomena, such as:

  • the earlier arrival of migratory birds in Australia
  • declining krill stocks around Antarctica
  • earlier break-up of river ice in Mongolia
  • genetic shift in the pitcher plant mosquito in North America
  • declining productivity of Lake Tanganyika
  • melting Patagonian ice-fields

“Since 1970, there’s been about 0.5C, 0.6C of warming – that’s the global average,” said Cynthia Rosenzweig from Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss) in New York.

“And look at all the effects this relatively low amount of warming has had.

“It reveals the sensitivity to relatively low amounts of warming in many physical and biological systems,” she told BBC News.

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