IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

11.6 Central and South America

Assessment of projected climate change for Central and South America:

All of Central and South America is very likely to warm during this century. The annual mean warming is likely to be similar to the global mean warming in southern South America but larger than the global mean warming in the rest of the area.

Annual precipitation is likely to decrease in most of Central America, with the relatively dry boreal spring becoming drier. Annual precipitation is likely to decrease in the southern Andes, with relative precipitation changes being largest in summer. A caveat at the local scale is that changes in atmospheric circulation may induce large local variability in precipitation changes in mountainous areas. Precipitation is likely to increase in Tierra del Fuego during winter and in south-eastern South America during summer.

It is uncertain how annual and seasonal mean rainfall will change over northern South America, including the Amazon forest. In some regions, there is qualitative consistency among the simulations (rainfall increasing in Ecuador and northern Peru, and decreasing at the northern tip of the continent and in southern northeast Brazil).

The systematic errors in simulating current mean tropical climate and its variability (Section 8.6) and the large inter-model differences in future changes in El Niño amplitude (Section10.3) preclude a conclusive assessment of the regional changes over large areas of Central and South America. Most MMD models are poor at reproducing the regional precipitation patterns in their control experiments and have a small signal-to-noise ratio, in particular over most of Amazonia (AMZ). The high and sharp Andes Mountains are unresolved in low-resolution models, affecting the assessment over much of the continent. As with all landmasses, the feedbacks from land use and land cover change are not well accommodated, and lend some degree of uncertainty. The potential for abrupt changes in biogeochemical systems in AMZ remains as a source of uncertainty (see Box 10.1). Large differences in the projected climate sensitivities in the climate models incorporating these processes and a lack of understanding of processes have been identified (Friedlingstein et al., 2003). Over Central America, tropical cyclones may become an additional source of uncertainty for regional scenarios of climate change, since the summer precipitation over this region may be affected by systematic changes in hurricane tracks and intensity.