New Study Unravels Mediterranean’s Vulnerability to Climate Change

Researchers at the MIT analyzed different global climate models and have unraveled the anomalous effects of climate change in the Mediterranean region.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate student Alexander Tuel and MIT Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Elfaith Eltahir, found out that all the global climate models they analyzed agree on one outcome. In the coming decades, the Mediterranean will experience a lower by 40 percent precipitation during the rainy and winter season. The finding simply suggests that the region will be significantly arid, likely to become a climate change hotspot in the near future.

What the MIT Researchers Found as Reason Behind the Mediterranean’s Significantly Drier Future

The pair of researchers Tuel and Professor Eltahir, learned from their analysis that the Mediterranean’s future as a hotspot region will be caused by the meeting together of two different climate change effects. One is a dynamic change that occurs in upper atmosphere circulation, while the other is a decreased difference in temperature between land and sea.

On their own, neither effect would sufficiently account for the anomalous reduction of rainfall in the Mediterranean. Yet as predicted by several global climate models, the phenomena will combine due to the Mediterranean’s geographic location. The position of the mountains affects the flow of air in the atmosphere, which as a result will create high pressure areas over the region. Those high pressure areas in turn, will have little precipitation that is likely to create a dry zone.

That first effect will combine with the second effect which is the reduction of the difference in temperatures between land and sea. The impact posed by the reduced temperature difference is that land will warm up at a faster rate than the sea.

The main difference of the Mediterranean’s geography when compared to other regions is that here, a big part of the sea is enclosed by several continents. Inasmuch as local topography is also a factor, the global climate models project that two Mediterranean areas will be hardest hit by the drying occurrence. The northwestern Africa, which includes Morocco, and the eastern Mediterranean region, where Turkey and the Levant are located.

MIT Professor Calls on Planners in the Mediterranean Region to Include the Global Climate Projections

The drying trend in the Mediterranean is actually more than just a projection since the MIT researchers have already detected declines in precipitation in the Middle East and North Africa. The findings were based on their documentation of observed precipitations.

Currently, Professor Eltahir has been helping government agencies in Morocco to translate the MIT findings into information they will use in making concrete plans. The MIT Professor asserts that since the underlying physical processes are now known and understood, planners in the region should seriously take into account the related projections.