Tropical migrations

Solomon Hsiang and I have a new paper out in Scientific Reports.A blog post about it by Stacy Morford is on the Lamont site. The paper points out the ramifications of a basic fact about the structure of earth’s temperature for potential climate change-induced migrations of species, including humans. In one sentence: tropical temperature gradients are small so that it takes a long migration to cool off if you start near the equator.

This new paper is a little different than my usual, in that it’s about impacts of climate change rather than about the physics of weather and climate itself. It does connect the physics to the impacts, in that the uniformity of tropical temperatures is a consequence of basic geophysical dynamics and a fact that I have made extensive use of in my normal (purely meteorological) research. It’s a theoretical study and not to be taken as a prediction of any specific migration, but we think the main point is nonetheless relevant to more practical and realistic discussions on this topic.

The lead author, Sol Hsiang, got his Ph.D. at Columbia some years ago in our sustainable development program, and has gone on to become a star in the rapidly growing field of climate impacts. He deserves most credit for this paper; the only reason I could participate in a study like this is because he had the idea and kindly asked me to be involved.


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