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Hotter, Dryer Conditions are Projected Across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

The Southeast CASC recently profiled a new study that finds that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands could experience hotter, dryer conditions in the future as a result of climate change. 

A lush rainforest covers a slope that ends on a thin beach. From above, the water is clear and light-blue.
Waves crash against a beach in Isla de Mona, Puerto Rico.

Read the original story posted on the Southeast CASC’s website here.  

Islands are uniquely vulnerable to climate change. Not only are they home to sensitive and often rare plants and animals, but they are also more directly threatened by sea level rise and extreme storms. Islands can also have many different ecosystems in a relatively small geographical area, further amplifying climate change effects and complicating climate adaptation efforts. In a newly-published study supported by the Southeast CASC, a group of researchers used global climate models to explore how climate change could affect islands in the Caribbean, focusing on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Unlike previous studies, which explored general effects of atmospheric conditions, this study considers how the three largest ecosystems across the islands (subtropical dry forests, subtropical moist forests, and subtropical wet forests) would fare under changing conditions. They found that under the highest predicted level of climate change (RCP 8.5), all three types of forests could become hotter and dryer in upcoming years, with the most extreme shifts occurring in Puerto Rico. Furthermore, Puerto Rico will experience increasing numbers of extreme temperatures, with some years projected to experience as many as 200 days of record-setting highs or lows. Changes in precipitation were primarily driven by decreases in daily showers. Caribbean Island resource managers have indicated that such findings can inform their plans for species conservation and water priorities across the Caribbean.  

“[Our] simulations are unique,” says lead author Jared Bowden, a senior research scholar at North Carolina State University. “They resolve important climate gradients that exist within the island, adding value to prior climate change projections.”   

This research is part of the Modeling Future Temperature and Precipitation for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Caribbean

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