A Shifting Band of Rain

Mapping Equatorial rainfall since A.D. 800

The tropical rain band that wraps the globe north of the equator migrates as atmospheric temperature changes, altering rainfall patterns worldwide.

University of Washington oceanographer Julian Sachs and Conor Myhrvold from Princeton University investigate the tropical rain band that wraps the globe north of the equator.  They report that this band of rain migrates as atmospheric temperature changes, altering rainfall patterns worldwide.  Data from sediments in Pacific Island lakes show that the band is at 3°N to 10°N, as far north as it has ever been in at least 1,200 years.  At current warming rates, the band could shift north by five degrees by 2100, drying out farmland for millions of people in Ecuador, Colombia and elsewhere.  Multiyear drought conditions in the southwestern U.S. could persist as that area becomes more like the semiarid region of northern Mexico.

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The tropical rain band that wraps the globe north of the equator migrates as atmospheric temperature changes, altering rainfall patterns worldwide.