Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of transbThe Royal Society PublishingPhilosophical Transactions BAboutBrowse By SubjectAlertsFree Trial
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 March 29; 359(1443): 311–329.
PMCID: PMC1693325

Spatial patterns and recent trends in the climate of tropical rainforest regions.


We present an analysis of the mean climate and climatic trends of tropical rainforest regions over the period 1960-1998, with the aid of explicit maps of forest cover and climatological databases. Until the mid-1970s most regions showed little trend in temperature, and the western Amazon experienced a net cooling probably associated with an interdecadal oscillation. Since the mid-1970s, all tropical rainforest regions have experienced a strong warming at a mean rate of 0.26 +/- 0.05 degrees C per decade, in synchrony with a global rise in temperature that has been attributed to the anthropogenic greenhouse effect. Over the study period, precipitation appears to have declined in tropical rainforest regions at a rate of 1.0 +/- 0.8% per decade (p < 5%), declining sharply in northern tropical Africa (at 3-4% per decade), declining marginally in tropical Asia and showing no significant trend in Amazonia. There is no evidence so far of a decline in precipitation in eastern Amazonia, a region thought vulnerable to climate-change-induced drying. The strong drying trend in Africa suggests that this should be a priority study region for understanding the impact of drought on tropical rainforests. We develop and use a dry-season index to study variations in the length and intensity of the dry season. Only African and Indian tropical rainforests appear to have seen a significant increase in dry-season intensity. In terms of interannual variability, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the primary driver of temperature variations across the tropics and of precipitation fluctuations for large areas of the Americas and southeast Asia. The relation between ENSO and tropical African precipitation appears less direct.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (2.5M).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Baker Timothy R, Phillips Oliver L, Malhi Yadvinder, Almeida Samuel, Arroyo Luzmila, Di Fiore Anthony, Erwin Terry, Higuchi Niro, Killeen Timothy J, Laurance Susan G, et al. Increasing biomass in Amazonian forest plots. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 Mar 29;359(1443):353–365. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Chambers Jeffrey Q, Silver Whendee L. Some aspects of ecophysiological and biogeochemical responses of tropical forests to atmospheric change. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 Mar 29;359(1443):463–476. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Clark Deborah A. Sources or sinks? The responses of tropical forests to current and future climate and atmospheric composition. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 Mar 29;359(1443):477–491. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Cox PM, Betts RA, Jones CD, Spall SA, Totterdell IJ. Acceleration of global warming due to carbon-cycle feedbacks in a coupled climate model. Nature. 2000 Nov 9;408(6809):184–187. [PubMed]
  • Cowling Sharon A, Betts Richard A, Cox Peter M, Ettwein Virginia J, Jones Chris D, Maslin Mark A, Spall Steven A. Contrasting simulated past and future responses of the Amazonian forest to atmospheric change. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 Mar 29;359(1443):539–547. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Cramer Wolfgang, Bondeau Alberte, Schaphoff Sibyll, Lucht Wolfgang, Smith Benjamin, Sitch Stephen. Tropical forests and the global carbon cycle: impacts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, climate change and rate of deforestation. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 Mar 29;359(1443):331–343. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Giannini A, Saravanan R, Chang P. Oceanic forcing of Sahel rainfall on interannual to interdecadal time scales. Science. 2003 Nov 7;302(5647):1027–1030. [PubMed]
  • Körner Christian. Through enhanced tree dynamics carbon dioxide enrichment may cause tropical forests to lose carbon. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 Mar 29;359(1443):493–498. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Lewis SL, Phillips OL, Baker TR, Lloyd J, Malhi Y, Almeida S, Higuchi N, Laurance WF, Neill DA, Silva JNM, et al. Concerted changes in tropical forest structure and dynamics: evidence from 50 South American long-term plots. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 Mar 29;359(1443):421–436. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Lewis Simon L, Malhi Yadvinder, Phillips Oliver L. Fingerprinting the impacts of global change on tropical forests. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 Mar 29;359(1443):437–462. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Mayle Francis E, Beerling David J, Gosling William D, Bush Mark B. Responses of Amazonian ecosystems to climatic and atmospheric carbon dioxide changes since the last glacial maximum. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 Mar 29;359(1443):499–514. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Phillips OL, Malhi Y, Higuchi N, Laurance WF, Nunez PV, Vasquez RM, Laurance SG, Ferreira LV, Stern M, Brown S, et al. Changes in the carbon balance of tropical forests: evidence from long-term plots . Science. 1998 Oct 16;282(5388):439–442. [PubMed]
  • Phillips OL, Baker TR, Arroyo L, Higuchi N, Killeen TJ, Laurance WF, Lewis SL, Lloyd J, Malhi Y, Monteagudo A, et al. Pattern and process in Amazon tree turnover, 1976-2001. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 Mar 29;359(1443):381–407. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Sombroek W. Spatial and temporal patterns of Amazon rainfall. Consequences for the planning of agricultural occupation and the protection of primary forests. Ambio. 2001 Nov;30(7):388–396. [PubMed]
  • Tudhope AW, Chilcott CP, McCulloch MT, Cook ER, Chappell J, Ellam RM, Lea DW, Lough JM, Shimmield GB. Variability in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation through a glacial-interglacial cycle. Science. 2001 Feb 23;291(5508):1511–1517. [PubMed]

Articles from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences are provided here courtesy of The Royal Society