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Wednesday, 05 November 2014

Which areas on the planet are at risk of desertification?

A recently published JRC study identified the following geographic regions as prone to desertification: north-eastern Brazil, south-western Argentina, the southern Sahel, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Sub-Himalayan India, and north-eastern China. These areas were identified by analysing spatial changes in climate indicators over the last 60 years.The analysis highlighted significant shifts in climate zones at global and continental scales between the periods 1951-1980 and 1981-2010. Over the past decades, a continuous rise in global air temperatures has resulted in changes in the global hydrological cycle, classifying climate zones as hotter and more arid.

Regional changes in the extent of drylands have led to new areas that can be categorised as being at risk of desertification. Arid areas have increased by 1.4% to 3.4% globally, particularly in Europe, Africa and China. Other relevant climate shifts include the transformation from tundra to a continental climate in Canada and Siberia, the shift from continental to temperate climate regimes in North America and Central Europe, and the widening of the tropical belt, mostly southwards.In order to identify the most evident global changes in climate regimes and the modifications of the extent of drylands over the past 60 years, JRC scientists coupled the information obtained from the Köppen–Geiger (KG) climate classification and the FAO aridity index (AI).