(CN) - Record-breaking heat and unrelenting greenhouse gas emissions have affected rainfall patterns in the tropical Pacific for a century and could accelerate warming near the equator, according to a University of Miami study.
Researchers observed the Indo-Pacific Ocean atmospheric circulation system and attributed a weakening air flow in part to the destructive and ongoing effects of global warming.
According to the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science study, rainfall will decrease over Indonesia and the western Pacific while increasing over the Central Pacific Ocean.
"Our findings show that an increasing concentration of greenhouse gases leads to significant changes in atmospheric circulation and tropical rainfall patterns," researcher and University of Miami alumna Katinka Bellomo said in a statement
Scientists studied cloud cover patterns over the Pacific Ocean to analyze the Walker circulation, trade winds that run east-west across the Pacific Ocean. Changes in water and atmospheric temperatures play a major role in global rainfall patterns and a weakening Walker is directly impacting the El Nino pattern currently brewing in the Pacific Ocean.
A 2006 study published in the scientific journal Nature first explored the weakening Walker and tied diminished surface winds to global warming.
While atmospheric wind speeds cannot be directly measured, University of Miami scientists tracked changes in cloud cover to determine decreasing wind speeds and an eastward shift of the Walker.
"This study makes innovative use of a decades-old dataset," said Amy Clement, professor of atmospheric science at the UM Rosenstiel School, of the Nov. 4 report. "It is impressive that visual observations from the decks of ships transiting the Pacific Ocean over a half-century can tell us something so fundamental about climate change."
Monitoring the Walker could help forecasters predict weather patterns and track the effects of increased greenhouse gas emissions on the Pacific Ocean tradewinds.
On Tuesday, NASA data revealed that last month was the warmest October ever recorded as global temperatures registered 1 degree Celsius above averages dating back to 1880. Above-average temperatures are expected to continue while El Nino runs its course and releases heat from the tropical Pacific.
While the study titled "Evidence for Weakening of the Walker Circulation from Cloud Observations" focused on the atmosphere, another ocean study released Nov. 6 targeted changes under the surface.
University of Connecticut scientists examined a class of microscopic plankton and found that certain dinoflagellates are changing their genetic makeup to deal with polluted oceans and global warming.
Connecticut researchers studied S. kawagutii, a dinoflagellate species, and found the microorganisms that live inside coral reefs are changing their sexual reproduction genes to adapt to an increasingly toxic environment.
Dinoflagellates are a favorite meal for mollusks, tiny fish and other coral species and have been blamed for poisoning shellfish and killing coral reefs. When water conditions aren't right, dinoflagellates eaten by mollusks are known to cause damaging red tides that poison larger animals and impact local economies.
In California, officials have delayed the start of the lucrative crab fishing season due to a massive bloom of the neurotoxin domoic acid. The toxin can become concentrated in crab species as algae are successively consumed up the food chain.
The Center for Biological Diversity said warming ocean waters are a serious "ecological and economic threat" and that toxic conditions could be "the new normal" if carbon emissions aren't immediately cut.
"This is another wake-up call that our oceans are in trouble, need help and need it soon," Dr. Abel Valdivia, a marine scientist with the center, said in a statement. "There is just too much at stake to ignore this problem and hope it goes away."
While California fisherman wait for crab season to begin, on Monday Gov. Jerry Brown announced a milestone in the "Under 2 MOU" agreement which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Brown said the total economies of nations and provinces signed on to the agreement have exceeded the GDP of the United States.
"From Germany to Brazil to China and beyond, this pact is uniting the world's leaders around a common goal: preventing catastrophic changes to our climate," Brown said in a statement. "If enough cities, states, regions - and even countries - join us, we can overcome the sheer complacency that threatens the well-being of humanity itself."
Next month, Brown and other leaders will attend a United Nations summit in Paris to discuss global warming. So far in 2015 Brown has traveled to advocate climate change policy in Canada, the Vatican and New York, and signed a bill meant to "decarbonize California."Follow @@NickCahill_5
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