Climate Change Will Alter Earth's Tropical Rain Belt

  • Future climate change will cause a regionally uneven shifting of the tropical rain belt -- a narrow band of heavy precipitation near the equator -- according to researchers at the University of California, Irvine and other institutions.
  • This development may threaten food security for billions of people.
  • Experts stressed that not all parts of the tropics will be affected equally. For instance, the rain belt will move north in parts of the Eastern Hemisphere but will move south in areas in the Western Hemisphere.
  • According to the study, a northward shift of the tropical rain belt over the eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean will result in future increases of drought stress in southeastern Africa and Madagascar, in addition to intensified flooding in southern India.
  • A southward creeping of the rain belt over the eastern Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean will cause greater drought stress in Central America.
  • In Asia, projected reductions in aerosol emissions, glacier melting in the Himalayas and loss of snow cover in northern areas brought on by climate change will cause the atmosphere to heat up faster than in other regions.
  • The weakening of the Gulf Stream current and deep-water formation in the North Atlantic is likely to have the opposite effect, causing a southward shift in the tropical rain belt across the Western Hemisphere.