The compounding effects of tropical deforestation and greenhouse warming on climate

H. Zhang*, A. Henderson-Sellers, K. Mcguffie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


This study reports the first assessment of the compounding effects of land-use change and greenhouse gas warming effects on our understanding of projections of future climate. An AGCM simulation of the potential impacts of tropical deforestation and greenhouse warming on climate, employing a version of NCAR Community Climate Model (CCM1-Oz), is presented. The joint impacts of tropical deforestation and greenhouse warming are assessed by an experiment in which removal of tropical rainforests is imposed into a greenhouse-warmed climate. Results show that the joint climate changes over tropical rainforest regions comprise large reductions in surface evapotranspiration (by about -180 mm yr-1) and precipitation (by about -312 mm yr-1) over the Amazon Basin, along with an increase of surface temperature by +3.0 K. Over Southeast Asia, similar but weaker changes are found in this study. Precipitation is decreased by -172 mm yr-1, together with the surface warming of 2.1 K. Over tropical Africa, changes in regional climate is much weaker and with some different features, such as the increase of precipitation by 25 mm yr-1. Energy budget analyses demonstrates that the large increase of surface temperature in the joint experiment is not solely produced by the increase of CO2 concentration, but is a joint effect of the reduction of surface evaporation (due to deforestation) and the increase of downward atmospheric longwave radiation (due to the doubling of CO2 concentration). Furthermore, impacts of tropical deforestation on the greenhouse-warmed climate are estimated by comparing a pair of tropical deforestation simulations. It is found that in CCM1-Oz, deforestation has very similar impacts on greenhouse-warmed regional climates as on current climates over tropical rainforest regions. The extra-tropical climatic response to tropical deforestation is identified in both sets of tropical deforestation experiments. Statistically significant responses are seen in the large-scale atmospheric circulation such as changes in the velocity potential and vertically integrated kinetic and potential energy fields. Wave propagation patterns are identified in the large-scale circulation anomalies, which provides a mechanism for interpreting the model responses in the extra-tropics. In addition, this study suggests that land-use change such as tropical deforestation may affect projections of future climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-338
Number of pages30
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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