Science Diary: Climate Change - Cloud: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: May 02, 2012
Scientist: Steve Williams

Science Diary: Climate Change - Cloud

Science Diary: Climate Change - Cloud
Could climate change dry out a rain forest?

Science Diary: Climate Change - Cloud

Music; Ambiance: Night wind in rainforest canopy, frogs

Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. We're on Mt. Lewis in North Queensland, Australia. Listen and you'll hear the wind and the frogs that live on top of the mountain. According to field biologist Steve Williams, global climate change will have major impact on this region.

"There are lots of species of these little rainforest frogs that can't handle a harsh dry season. So what that means is with global climate change if we start getting longer, dryer seasons across the whole region, there's a whole lot of species that might be badly affected by that impact."

But it's not just frogs that'll be affected by warmer temperatures.

The average height of the cloud layer is expected to rise with increasing temperature. That's a fairly well known climate relationship. What happens is the clouds blow through the rainforest and you get a lot of condensation occurring in the rainforest canopy, and it's called cloud stripping. What happens is the clouds at night blow through the forest and you get this enormous amount of water dripping out of the canopy. A few scientists have actually studied this phenomena and found that here in these mountain tops that cloud stripping can actually be something like 30 to 50 percent of the total water input to the system, which is an amazing proportion of the water coming in. So, with increasing global temperature, as these clouds lift up the mountain, they hit the top of these mountains less often. And that could produce a really dramatic decrease in the moisture coming into the system. It's not only got implications for the frogs and the animals and plants that live here: A lot of the human population that live along the coast here, rely on the water that comes out of these mountains. And so basically that's like saying, a reduction of 30 percent of the available water.

For more information on Steve Williams' work, visit Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.