, Volume 86, Issue 3-4, pp 309-329
Date: 25 May 2007

Changes in climate extremes, variability and signature on sub-Antarctic Marion Island

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The ecological consequences of climate change are determined by many climate parameters, not just by the commonly investigated changes in mean temperature and rainfall. More comprehensive studies, including analyses of climate variability, extremes and aggregate changes in the climate system, can improve the understanding of the nature, and therefore possible consequences, of recent changes in climate. Here climate trends on the sub-Antarctic Marion Island are documented (between 1949 and 2003) in more detail than previously. Significant trends in biologically-relevant, and previously unexplored, parameters were observed, and the potential ecological consequences of these changes discussed. For example, the decline in precipitation experienced on the island comprises a trend for longer dry spells punctuated by fewer and smaller precipitation events. This more detailed understanding of the island’s drying trends enables more accurate predictions about its impacts, including, for example, particularly severe effects on plant species growing in soils with poor water-holding capacity. Therefore, in addition to changes in average conditions, more inclusive climate analyses should also examine trends in climatic variability and extremes, for individual climate parameters as well as for the climate system as a whole.