Human-induced land cover changes (LCCs), such as the clearing of forests for farming, can affect regional climate. Scientists arrived at this conclusion after analyzing seven different climate models.
To study the regional and global effects of LCC, A. J. Pitman from Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, analyzed seven different climate models.
Each model simulation was run several times, with prescribed land cover reflecting conditions in 1870 and in 1992.
The researchers found that in all models, LCC has a statistically significant regional effect on latent heat flux and near-surface temperature.
Furthermore, they found that LCC affect temperature only in the region where the land cover change took place, not in remote regions.
While all models show significant regional effects, these vary across models for several reasons arising from differences in the implementation of the LCC, different land surface models, and different ways of representing the landscape.
The researchers concluded that it is essential to include LCC in future regional and global climate studies but that it is not feasible to impose them in a common way across multiple models for the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment.