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Dissertation Research on Cloud Forest Paleoclimate

PI: Kevin Anchukaitis
Institution: University of Arizona
Abstract:
Tropical montane cloud forests (TMCF] are ecosystems intrinsically linked to a relatively narrow range of geographic and meteorological conditions, potentially making them particularly sensitive to relatively small changes in precipitation or temperature. Early GCM modeling efforts (cf. Still et al 1999, Nature) predicted higher lifting condensation levels and reduced cloud contact for TMCFs as a consequence of increasing atmospheric CO2 and consequent global temperatures rise. Analysis of observational data also strongly suggests that warmer eastern tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures [SSTs] are related to interannual decreases in cloud cover at Monteverde in Costa Rica, for instance, but that there also exists a longer-term trend of reduced moisture potentially related to anthropogenic forcings. Increases in global surface and tropical sea surface temperature may fundamentally alter the suite of climatic and biophysical conditions that create and maintain current cloud forests environments and their unique ecology.

My current dissertation research attempts to develop long-term reconstructions of local and regional climate variability in tropical montane cloud forests in order to better identify the relative contributions of various natural and anthropogenic influences on modern cloud forest climate. As part of this research, I would like to examine the latest GCM results from AR4 in order to determine how state-of-the-art simulations perform in reproducing patterns of relative humidity, precipitation, and temperature in Central America, and also examine in detail both the natural and forced patterns of variability related to cloud forest hydroclimatology.

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