A study led by Assistant Professor Ran Feng in the Department of Earth Sciences provides a new explanation for how ancient subtropical drylands become mesic habitats. Published in Nature Communications, the team conducted a series of simulations to investigate the climate conditions responsible for generating mesic subtropical conditions over 3 million years ago during the mid-Pliocene – a time interval when the Earth had a similar climate to the mid-of-the-road future climate scenario. A combination of proxy synthesis and climate model analysis reveals that enhanced evapotranspiration and altered moisture pathways generated by continental greening and ice sheet retreat are behind the moistening of the subtropical drylands.
Figure adapted from Dowsett et al. (2016, Climate of the Past)