Climate Change Scenarios

On our favourite Atlantic islands of Madeira and Azores, Portugal, scientists are taking seriously climate change. This research is done several years ago and this distance is making it even more important.


F. D. Santos, M. A. Valente, Pedro M. A. Miranda, Ana Aguiar, E. B. Azevedo, A.R. Tomé, F. Coelho
World Resource Review Vol. 16 No. 4, 2004


In the present study, a new downscaling technique is developed and applied to the Azores and Madeira islands. The technique is tested against observed climatology, constituting, in that case, an alternative to non-physical interpolating techniques widely used. The quest to investigate the impact of future global warming due to greenhouse gases concentration increases on the climate of the Azores and Madeira is another aim of this paper. Climate scenarios for the 21st century, obtained from the HadCM3 Hadley Centre (UK) large scale climate model (Gordon et al., 2000), run with the A2 and B2 SRES emissions scenarios, are here downscaled to the islands of Terceira and S. Miguel, in the Azores, and to Madeira island, using a simple parcel model. The scenarios are constructed for the period 2070-2099, and are compared with the climate modelled in the control period 1961- 1990. Anomalies between these two 30-year periods are analyzed in this work and the results give an indication of the impacts the future greenhouse gas concentration increase could have on the islands’ ecosystems in the late 21st century.


The impacts on Madeira island, with a population of around 250 000 inhabitants in 740 km2, are likely to be even more significant. First, the projected changes in temperature are higher, closer to the world average. More importantly, the changes in precipitation correspond to a significant annual loss of water (of the order of 1/3 of current values) and to a change in the annual cycle that is the opposite of what is projected to the Azores, leading to an even larger reduction in Winter precipitation. Madeira is a region highly dependent on tourism, and has several natural ecosystems that may be threatened by a drier climate, namely a large area of protected humid forest. Also, the Madeira water resources depend mostly on the capturing of precipitation in the high grounds, which feeds into many small rivers and ground water systems. Hydroelectricity is also an important resource, fed by small reservoirs with large falls. All these systems require a lot of rain in the mountains. Current GCM data seems to indicate that some of that rain may fail in the future.

Whole paper 18 pages in PDF format

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