The temperatures recorded in the world are increasing, altering the ecosystems and biodiversity of countries. Among the most affected are countries located in Central Asia, as a recent climate assessment revealed that over the past 35 years temperatures have increased across Central Asia, particularly in China, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Central Asia turning to desert
This area of Asia is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, mainly because more than 60% of the territory has a dry climate with infrequent rainfall. With the increase in temperature, in these places, the water available for plants and other organisms is scarce and, with the increase of the climate, the evaporation of water in the soil increases and the risk of drought increases.
And although it is known that this region is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, it was not known exactly which countries were most affected. To better understand the situation, Qi Hu, an Earth and climate scientist at the University of Nebraska, and Zihang Han, a climatologist at Lanzhou University, analyzed precipitation and air temperature data from 1960 to 2020.
Using the data, the researchers were able to divide Central Asia into 11 climate types. The results were published in Geophysical Research Letters. Among the scientists’ findings, it is also highlighted that since the late 1980s, “the zone classified as a desert climate has expanded eastward and extended northward up to 100 kilometers in northern Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. , in southern Kazakhstan, and around the Junggar Basin in northwest China.
Han adds that adjacent climate zones have become drier. In some areas, the average annual temperature was at least 5°C higher between 1990 and 2020 than between 1960 and 1979, with increasingly drier summers and rainfall mainly during winter.
As for the mountainous areas, the study points out that the increase in temperature generated an increase in precipitation, which, instead of falling as snow, falls as rain. An example is what happens in the Tian Shan mountain range in northwest China. “Higher temperatures and increased precipitation contribute to high-altitude ice melt, which could explain the unprecedented rate of glacier shrinkage in this range,” Hu told Nature.
This scenario of reduced snowfall is alarming, the researchers warn, as lost ice will not be replenished and less meltwater will flow to people and crops in the future. Therefore, they point out, due to the increase in temperatures generated by climate change, deserts will increase. “This phenomenon needs to be better understood and adopted,” the researchers conclude.