The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that there is “discernible evidence” that humans—through accelerating changes in multiple forcing factors—have begun to alter the earth's climate regime. Such conclusions are based primarily upon so-called “fingerprint” studies, namely the warming pattern in the midtroposphere in the Southern Hemisphere, the disproportionate rise in nighttime and winter temperatures, and the statistical increase in extreme weather events in many nations. All three aspects of climate change and climate variability have biological implications.

Detection of climate change has also drawn upon data from glacial records that indicate a general retreat of tropical summit glaciers. Here the authors examine biological (plant and insect) data, glacial findings, and temperature records taken at high-elevation, mountainous regions. It is concluded that, at high elevations, the overall trends regarding glaciers, plants, insect range, and shifting isotherms show remarkable internal consistency, and that there is consistency between model projections and the ongoing changes. There are implications for public health as well as for developing an interdisciplinary approach to the detection of climate change.

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Footnotes

*Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

+Climatic Diagnostics Center, Environmental Research Laboratories, NOAA, Boulder, Colorado.

#University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.

@Department of Vegetation Ecology and Conservation Biology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.

&International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California.

** Department of Mathematics, Maastricht University, the Netherlands.

++Byrd Polar Research Center, Department of Geography, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.

##Laboratory of Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.