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Multi-decadal trends of low clouds at the Tropical Montane Cloud Forests 
  • J. Antonio Guzmán Q.,
  • Hendrik F. Hamann,
  • G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa
J. Antonio Guzmán Q.
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, U.S.A., Centre for Earth Observation Sciences, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E3, Canada

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Hendrik F. Hamann
IBM TJ Watson Research Center, 1101 Kitchawan Rd, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598, U.S.A.
G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa
Centre for Earth Observation Sciences, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R3, Canada.

Corresponding Author:


Clouds are critical to the biodiversity and function of Tropical Montane Cloud Forests (TMCF). These ecosystems provide vital services to humanity and are considered hotspots of endemism, given that the number of species is restricted to their microclimates. Cloudiness (e.g., the fraction of low-clouds) in these ecosystems is projected to decline owing to global warming, but recent temporal trends remain unclear. Here, we evaluated trends in low-cloud fractions (CF) and other Essential Climatic Variables (ECV) (e.g., surface temperature, pressure, soil moisture, and precipitation) for 521 sites worldwide with TMFCs from 1997 to 2020. Thus, we hypothesize that recent traces of global warming over the last few decades have led to decreases in low-cloud cover on TMCFs. The previous study was also evaluated globally and among biogeographic realms to identify regional trends. We computed trends by aggregating hourly observations from ERA5 reanalysis and CHIRPS into annual averages and then used linear regressions to calculate slopes (i.e., rate of change) (Δ, year-1). Our results suggest that CF trends at the TMCFs range between -64.7 ×10-4 and 51.4 ×10-4 CF year-1, revealing that 70% of the assessed sites have experienced reductions in CF. Declines in low-clouds in these ecosystems are 253% more severe than tropical landmasses when peak values of density distribution are compared (TMCFs: -7.8 ×10-4CF year-1; tropical landmasses -2.3 ×10-4 CF year-1). Despite this, CF trends tend to differ among biogeographic realms, as those TMCFs from the Neotropics and Indomalayan realms have the most pronounced declines. Decreases in CF were also associated with increases in surface temperature and pressure and decreases in soil moisture, revealing that the TMCF’s climate is changing to warmer environments. These climatic shifts may represent a fingerprint of global change on TMCFs, highlighting a current threat to species and essential ecosystem services that these ecosystems provide.
11 Nov 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
14 Nov 2023Published in ESS Open Archive