PRBO Conservation Science
Quarterly Journal of PRBO Conservation Science, Number 156, Spring 2009: Ecological Consequences of Climate Change


Ecologists Join Climate Scientists

Climate Modeling

CEO's Column
Fingerprints of Climate Change
Projecting Birds' Future
Song Sparrows and Climate
PRBO's Climate Change Initiative
Climate Modeling
Planned Giving
Focus on a Home Patch
PRBO Highlights

Fox Sparrow. Photo by Tom Grey.
In PRBO's new work to understand the likely effects of climate change on birds and ecosystems, we are collaborating with climate modelers. These are scientists who look well beyond what can be known from present-day conditions (the realm of six-day weather forecasts) to make assumptions—referred to as "scenarios"—about how the factors that influence climate will change in the future. Their forecasts are called projections rather than predictions and require updating as future conditions become better understood.

One of PRBO's research partners is Dr. Mark Snyder, a climate scientist at U.C. Santa Cruz. His work has included modeling climate change in California on a regional level. This level of detail captures local weather patterns much more accurately than global climate models can. For a topographically diverse place like California, regional climate modeling is extremely valuable.
Regional climate projections from Mark Snyder's research are incorporated in the model for Fox Sparrow's future distribution (at right, above) in California. The dark green coloring shows the range of this coniferous forest bird contracting into higher elevations over the next 75 years. The image is a screen shot from the California Avian Data Center,

Dr. Snyder has also modeled how climate change may alter wind patterns that drive ocean upwelling in the Pacific. His research has obvious applications to understanding the effects of climate change on both terrestrial and marine birds, subjects of PRBO research.

Joining the expertise of ecologists and climate modelers is an essential pathway for conservation application of climate change research.

Much more information about climate modeling is avaliable from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) at www.

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