Drought, Titicaca, Poopo, and Local Tipping Points

National Science Foundation

Press Release 10-216

Catastrophic Drought Looms for Capital City of Bolivia

Photo of a leafless tree on the shore of Lake Titicaca.
Drought is on the horizon for the region surrounding Lake Titicaca; it may arrive by 2040. Credit and Larger Version

Historical ecology of the Andes indicates desert-like setting on the horizon

Catastrophic drought is on the near-term horizon for the capital city of Bolivia, according to new research into the historical ecology of the Andes.

If temperatures rise more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius (3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) above those of modern times, parts of Peru and Bolivia will become a desert-like setting.

The change would be disastrous for the water supply and agricultural capacity of the two million inhabitants of La Paz, Bolivia’s capital city, scientists say.

The results, derived from research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and conducted by scientists affiliated with the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), appear in the November issue of the journal Global Change Biology.

Climatologist Mark Bush of FIT led a research team investigating a 370,000-year record of climate and vegetation change in Andean ecosystems.

The scientists used fossilized pollen trapped in the sediments of Lake Titicaca, which sits on the border of Peru and Bolivia.

They found that during two of the last three interglacial periods, which occurred between 130,000-115,0000 years ago and 330,000-320,000 years ago, Lake Titicaca shrank by as much as 85 percent.

Adjacent shrubby grasslands were replaced by desert.

Image of nearby Lake Poopo, which has dried up but for brief periods.

Foreshadowing: in many years, nearby Lake Poopo has dried up but for brief periods.

Credit and Larger Version

In each case, a steady warming occurred that caused trees to migrate upslope, just as they are doing today.

However, as the climate kept warming, the system suddenly flipped from woodland to desert.

“The evidence is clear that there was a sudden change to a much drier state,” said Bush.

Scientist Sherilyn Fritz at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln showed that during these warm episodes the algae living in Lake Titicaca shifted from freshwater species to ones tolerant of salty water. Paul Baker of Duke University identified peaks of carbonate deposition.

Both point to a sudden shallowing of the lake due to evaporative loss.

An environmental reconstruction demonstrates that with moderate warming, forests moved upslope. But as that warming continued, a climate tipping point was reached.

The system was thrown into a new, drier state that halted forest expansion.

The tipping point is caused by increased evaporative loss from Lake Titicaca.

As the lake contracts, the local climate effects attributable to a large lake–doubling of rainfall, among the most important–would be lost, says Bush.

Such tipping points have been postulated by other studies, but this work allowed the researchers to state when the system will change.

Based on the growth limits of Andean forests, they defined a tipping point that was exceeded within a 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius warming above modern conditions.

Given a rate of warming in the Peruvian Andes of about 0.3-0.5 degrees Celsius per decade, the tipping point ahead would be reached between 2040 and 2050.

“The implications would be profound for some two million people,” says Paul Filmer, program director in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences. Severe drought, and a loss of stored water in lakes in the region, would reduce yields from important agricultural regions and threaten drinking water supplies.

The research suggests that limiting wildfires would help delay the worst effects of the drought.


Map showing Late Titicaca and surrounding areas.

Lake Titicaca, and parts of Peru and Bolivia, are on the cusp of a major drought.

Credit and Larger Version

Photo of a woodland near Lake Titicaca.

This woodland near the lake is similar to those of past times with temperatures like today’s.

Credit and Larger Version

Scanning electron image of saltbush pollen.

Saltbush pollen, the most common type of pollen during times of near-desert conditions.

Credit and Larger Version

Image of Lake Titicaca from space.

Lake Titicaca from space. Its outline may look very different in the future.

Credit and Larger Version

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November 12, 2010 11:06 am

However, since the Holocene Optimum, each successive warm period has not been as warm as the last. We are slowly sinking towards colder, have probably passed the peak of this warm period, as the Sun has gone to a minimum state similar to the Dalton minimum, and should be worrying about the impact of increasingly cold climate.
We are looking in the wrong direction – typical human behavior.

November 12, 2010 11:11 am

“Given a rate of warming in the Peruvian Andes of about 0.3-0.5 degrees Celsius per decade
Just what have been the temperature trends in the Peruvian Andes for the last 30 – 50 years? Was a model used to forecast this tipping point? Did I miss something?

November 12, 2010 11:16 am

In the following article Paul Hudson discusses a study by Newcastle University wherby they determine that flooding is increasing due to global warming. Mr Hudson points out that Phillip Eden draws attention that the time period is too short and hence qustions the validity of the study?
Is this usual in self named climate science?

November 12, 2010 11:17 am

“In each case, a steady warming occurred that caused trees to migrate upslope, just as they are doing today.”
Have they got a video of that? I’ve love to see it.

Steve Keohane
November 12, 2010 11:18 am

I concur with Charles Higley 11:06am. In addition, although presented as a catastrophe, it seems this supports the contention that temperatures warmer than those of today are just part of a natural cycle.

Burch Seymour
November 12, 2010 11:20 am

> … caused trees to migrate upslope…
What is this? A Monty Python sketch? Coconuts, trees, what’s the diff…

Richard Sharpe
November 12, 2010 11:23 am

So, this has happened before I see.

November 12, 2010 11:27 am

Off Topic:
Report: Global Warming Issue From 2 Or 3 Years Ago May Still Be Problem
ends with this:
“Climate change is real, and we are killing our planet more every day,” said climatologist Helen Marcus, who has made similar statements in interviews in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. “We need to make a serious effort to stop it, or, you know, we’ll all die. There really isn’t much else to say.”

November 12, 2010 11:30 am

And yet the last two times this happened, there was no industrial complex burning fossil fuels to cause it. So why would this be any different?

November 12, 2010 11:32 am

It can’t be a tipping point if conditions revert back to previous states.
These indicators point to a depositional cycle which we geologists see all through the geological record, in strata all over the world.
Don’t these Muppets ever proof read what they write?

James Sexton
November 12, 2010 11:33 am

I guess letting go is the hardest thing to do. More of the same driveling hyperbole by the lunatic fringe. Tipping points and sophistry rolled into a package of psuedo-scientific ramblings.
Guys, its over. Here is the tipping point! When it gets about 3,632 °F our fuels will start to combust!

Vince Causey
November 12, 2010 11:42 am

In all these studies when warming is observed, the assumption is that the warming causes the change in the environment. It would be equally valid to suggest that the warming is a symptom of other factors which also drive the desertification process. A purely hypothetical example would be a lack of cosmic rays leading to reduced cloud cover. This would result in both warmer and drier conditions. I’m not saying that’s what happened, merely that it doesn’t follow that warming will lead to more drying.

November 12, 2010 11:42 am

Dig deep buddies, this looks like Briffa’s LONELY TREE.
It seems these guys don’t navigate in the web:
We present a climatic reconstruction of Holocene lacustrine episodes in the Salinas del Bebedero basin (Argentina), based on geological and diatom information.
Morphological, sedimentological and diatom evidence between 11600 ± 140 yr BP and 325 ± 95 yr BP, allowed us to interpret the paleoenvironments of the basin. Episodes of high energy (sandy levels) are linked to large inflow of meltwater through the Desaguadero River, related to development of glaciers on the Andes. This inflow is characterized by peaks of relative abundance of the brackish water diatom Cyclotella choctawatcheeana Prasad. The values of C. choctawatcheeana decrease in deposits of low energy (clay levels), where it co-dominates with oligohalobous Fragilaria and Epithemia spp.
To the last two peaks of large inflow of meltwater, radiocarbon dates corrected to sidereal ages, are AD 1280/1420 and AD 1443/1656. These ages agree with two cold episodes clearly recorded in dendrological studies from the Patagonian Andes and were correlated to the Little Ice Age. Thus, older Holocene episodes of large inflow of water to the basin were correlated with the Neoglacial Advances defined by Mercer (1976) for the Andes.
Authors: Miguel Gozales and Dora Maidiana
That salt lake will be filled of water AGAIN in this Solar Minimum, though it will be surrounded by a dried PAMPA, with water from Bolivian andean heights.

Nusquam Nihil
November 12, 2010 11:43 am

“The results, derived from research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and conducted by scientists affiliated with the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), appear in the November issue of the journal Global Change Biology.”
Who even knew there was a journal Global Change Biology? Wouldn’t expect any sort of biased editorial processes viz which studies to publish in a journal who’s very existence is premised on global climate change.

November 12, 2010 11:43 am

Tipping point! 2040…………………….No! wait maybe 2050!….. shock horror!
A bit dramatic, to say the least – (same old, same old).
Making an extremely dubious extrapolation (0.3 – 0.5/decade) here aren’t we NSF?
What about human land-use, particularly deforestation, is that not the greatest factor?
Or, is the Aral Sea example uppermost in your minds but then, that was a human induced disaster too.

November 12, 2010 11:50 am

‘Although accurate reconstructions of Amazonian palaeoclimates are central to understanding the distribution and history of Neotropical biodiversity, current reconstructions based on proxy data are discordant and subject to intense debate.’
Journal of Quaternary Science. Special Issue: Late Quaternary ecosystem dynamics and carbon cycling in the tropics. Volume 19, Issue 7, pages 677–684, October 2004
Observations on Late Pleistocene cooling and precipitation in the lowland Neotropics
Mark B. Bush, Miles R. Silman
Article first published online: 27 SEP 2004

November 12, 2010 11:51 am

And if pigs grow wings, they can fly.

November 12, 2010 12:10 pm

steveta_uk says:
November 12, 2010 at 11:17 am
“In each case, a steady warming occurred that caused trees to migrate upslope, just as they are doing today.”
Have they got a video of that? I’ve love to see it.
Ha ha ha, the best I could find was one of them migrating downslope:

Mike of FTG
November 12, 2010 12:10 pm

Just an aside, Googled “Holocene Optimum”, into Wiki edit, noted the name of Connelly had changed “expected NOTHWARD SHIFT of thunderstorms” to “SOUTHWARD SHIFT”. Is there anywhere his sticky little fingers have not been.

November 12, 2010 12:11 pm

too bad it’s getting colder and these people are freezing to death instead.

Richard S Courtney
November 12, 2010 12:20 pm

The above article says about the report;
“The research suggests that limiting wildfires would help delay the worst effects of the drought.”
I do not understand that. How would limiting wild fires help to delay the worst effects of the drought? By using less water to extinguish the fires? Or something else?
I would appreciate somebody providing an explanation of this.

November 12, 2010 12:21 pm

Another tipping point apparently occurred sometime around or before 1000 to 1500 years ago, the date associated with submerged temples and roads found in Lake Titicaca at least a hundred feet deep.

Jeff L
November 12, 2010 12:29 pm

Alarmism at its finest!
… and image, all this happened without any help from humans or AGW.
… but of course none of those mechanisms / forcing could be at play in our modern climate. That’s just unthinkable!

November 12, 2010 12:35 pm

Oh, lets forget that we are talking about a lake on top of a growing mountain! Sheesh…

November 12, 2010 12:36 pm

“Lake Titicaca shrank by as much as 85 percent…in many years, nearby Lake Poopo has dried up…”
Tough snip.

k winterkorn
November 12, 2010 12:46 pm

“Global Change Biology”??? No chance of observer bias in the science reported there!

Scarlet Pumpernickel
November 12, 2010 12:50 pm

Hey that’s great, pick a La Nina year to talk about the drought in Bolivia, that’s like picking an El Nino year to talk about the drought in Australia. Now they can’t film Mad Max 4 because there is too much green in the Australian desert.

November 12, 2010 12:54 pm

4 words for Bolivia; Large pumps and pipes.
Reprinted for my pleasure and yours from a previous thread:
Cassandra King says: wrote
November 12, 2010 at 12:49 am
“There is stupidity, gross stupidity, sublime stupidity, mind boggling stupidity and then there is climate ‘science’ stupidity.
Whoever thought that pumping a harmless trace gas that we drink by the millions of tons every year in the form of CO2 infused drinks into a hole in the ground was a great idea?
I just cannot get my head around how intelligent people can lose their critical faculties/marbles in order to come up with wacky crazy schemes like this, it just does not compute.
Even if you believe that a harmless trace gas essential to life on earth is somehow harmful how on earth does the extra energy required to sequester this gas make sense in an energy conservation equation?
There is a kind of madness in the air affecting humanity, it is sapping reason and sound judgment and reinforcing an unthinking unreasoning emotional response that is somehow bypassing the higher human intellect.
Whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad? The quality control of cold logic and Rational common sense is evaporating replaced by a form of incoherent mystical mumbo jumbo. Is there nobody in the chain of planning policy creation who stood up and tried to inject some common sense when some bright spark stood up and said ‘yeah I know lets dig a hole and pour CO2 down it and damn the cost’?
I don’t know about CCS(carbon capture and storage) but it seems that a new scheme of CSCS(common sense capture and storage) has been developed and is working very effectively indeed.”
No one articulates logic like Cassandra

Henry chance
November 12, 2010 12:56 pm

They can’t predict next years rainfall.
2040 is far enough out there, they won’t get busted. Although we are reading of freezing and dangerous cooling predicted 20 years ago. The writings were not erased.

November 12, 2010 1:06 pm

Attention to all WUWT bloggers. Take care of saving this POST and google the News next January,February and March 2011. You will have the unique opportunity to laugh aloud.

November 12, 2010 1:15 pm

Richard S Courtney;
Deforestation, or any major decrease in forest cover, negatively affects rainfall. Less trees/vegetation, less rain, in a pretty general sense. Forest fires rapidly decrease vegetative ground cover including trees. Probably their point… (I suggest reading the original paper if you have access.)

Ben D.
November 12, 2010 1:17 pm

.3 degrees to .5 degrees per decade…. and we are not even given the years that they cherry picked .. err I mean picked for this statistic.
I bet its less scary like our temperature difference between 1850 and today which is roughly 1 degree warmer world-wide…very scary indeed, unless you cherry pick from 1975 to about 10 years ago, and then it gets scary.
Cherry picking data is so much fun, I guess we could just say that in the next 150 years we will see worldwide increases of about 1 more degree if everything stays the same, but that doesn’t provide grant money and/or donations to environmental organizations.
Does anyone know any good environmental organizations that actually care about the environment more then socialism? I would love to know that answer…

November 12, 2010 1:31 pm

This is total horse manure.
I’ve been to Lake Titicaca, and if there is ANYTHING that region needs it is heat. For one thing it will only come about if it is warmer along the coast, and THAT are can use heat even more than Lake Titicaca. But that will allow more convection to get water over the mountains, which means more rain, not less. I also lived in Denver (admittedly lower elevation, of course), and the ONLY rain Denver gets for months on end is what has worked its way from the western slope over successive ridges through convection and rain, convection and rain.
Any rain that comes to Lake Titicaca will have come from the Peruvian side of the system, and more heat there, too, will be a godsend. For a place in the tropics, folks, you’ve never imagined so much cold.
At Lake Titicaca HEAT = GOOD.
Also, projecting it out there 30 years into the future and calling that “near-term horizon” is utter nonsense.
ALSO, any claim of 370,000 year “knowledge” is also horse crap, especially when claiming any variations within tenths of degrees. The uncertainty only a few hundred years ago is in the full degree range, and a thousand years it is probably double that for any single area of the world. They should not let the AVERAGE global flatness mislead them about regional variations, which are higher by a factor of 2 or more. But back 370,000 years? Whatever they CLAIM, it is wrong. And they don’t even know HOW wrong.
Who are they stroking, and what are they smoking?

Malaga View
November 12, 2010 1:31 pm

Yesterday afternoon when I was at the beach it was 21C… this morning the temperature was down to just 13C… therefore the cooling rate in Malaga is currently 8C in only 18 hours… so I will put away my water skis and got out my snowboard… seems sensible based upon the data… roll eyes.
So just as well they are monitoring Bolivia so closely… let me see now: There has not been any thermometer data for Bolivia in GHCN since 1990…. Ooops!
Next they will be predicting that Lake Eyre will dry out due to AGW…

November 12, 2010 1:58 pm


November 12, 2010 2:14 pm

steveta_uk says:
November 12, 2010 at 11:17 am
“In each case, a steady warming occurred that caused trees to migrate upslope, just as they are doing today.”
Have they got a video of that? I’ve love to see it.
Day of the Triffids, 1962 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055894/

November 12, 2010 2:17 pm

The greenies are expecting cooling global temps. They are just laying a foundation for the up and coming AGW caused drought narrative. Reality is, it is either Warm-Wet or Cool-Dry. The greenies have gotten the population conditionsd to think Warm means dry, so matter what the active natural climate regime, the greenies will always have something to blame on AGW.

November 12, 2010 2:20 pm

bob says:
November 12, 2010 at 11:11 am
We have had, in the capital of Peru, the last winter (which does not want to leave us) minimum temperatures of 2 degrees below normal.
We are living “interesting times” while you are living in a different dimension. Good luck next winter…enjoy it praying to your prophet!

Robert of Ottawa
November 12, 2010 2:24 pm

It was funded by the NSF …?
They had Not Sufficient Funds … governments soon will be in that situation to continue funding this nonsense.

Dave Andrews
November 12, 2010 2:27 pm

Have you picked up on this story in today’s Guardian which says discusses a recent study that finds rainforests adapted remarkably well to the temperature rises during the PETM mentioned by Matt Ridley (even if CO2 played only a small part in this rise)?

November 12, 2010 2:33 pm

I have to apologise if I have skipped various comments, but I derived a link with this gem…

George Carlin has entertained me with his wit, wisdom and innate sagacity for several months now. We need more of his ilk to poke fun and a humourous stick at the establishment. Without the humour, that Josh supplies for example, where would we be? Anthony Watts is to be further praised for such inclusion. As long as people such as George, sadly no longer with us (not that it would bother him one iota), can and do question any science then there is still an inkling of hope for the masses, the hoi polloi if you prefer, and make those at the very top of the tree, and they know well who they are (and so do some of us, the unwashed, unwanted folk who believe in the simple expediency of truth) a little concerned . We worry a tad concerning the defence of their trillion dollar funded ivory castle, but can prove nothing, at the moment. We do procreate, and that is yet another problem, or should I say ‘issue’ for our so-called world leaders. I would not mind betting, en passant, that they are of a triumvirate organisation, or triangular, it matters not, that is geared towards total and utter control of us, the people, the folk over the valley, families and societies all across this planet.
The propaganda of the gore stinks, as most of the followers of Anthony’s blog recognise, but we, the real movers & shakers in the climate debate have not convinced the hoi polloi.
Most of these good people do not know the difference between a degree Celsius and a degree Farhenheit (a difficult name to spell, and a difficult physical property to understand). Furthermore, they do not really need to know that 25degC is a bit warm. They know instinctively when they are hot. And so do the rest of us, however much we know about the ‘climate’. However, what the hoi polloi inevitably do is follow the sheep, and those that bleat the loudest are those that are followed.
Perhaps we sc(k)eptics should leave our secure, reasonable and relatively peaceful transmission of climate knowledge (WUWT!!) amongst ourselves, and utilise our wealth of information to comment on the environmentalist blogs, for starters; perhaps then elevating ourselves to mild attacks on the gore’s blog, and his minion’s.

Economic Geologist
November 12, 2010 2:42 pm

“They found that during two of the last three interglacial periods, which occurred between 130,000-115,0000 years ago and 330,000-320,000 years ago, Lake Titicaca shrank by as much as 85 percent.”
I’ll take those brief interglacials over the glacial periods, when Lake Titicaca was probably pretty solid, i.e. frozen.

Dave Andrews
November 12, 2010 3:03 pm

Should have carried on reading down the posts!
As ever, WUWT is always on the ball.

November 12, 2010 3:09 pm

I have a further comment to add, with regard to education.
Perhaps I should say the word ‘propaganda’.
Enough said, but…
As George postulated, (in my own words), we are heading for the downward spiral of the plug-hole. The US will probably be the first to hit the spot, swiftly followed by their partner, the UK.
Children these days are not educated in the true sense of the word “education”. Instead they are fed a nauseous concoction of half-beliefs, rigmarole, pseudo-science and religious poppycock. Teachers of today are hardly to be blamed, for they too have been tarred with the same ‘world order’ brush – exactly according to plan.

November 12, 2010 3:09 pm

“The research suggests that limiting wildfires would help delay the worst effects of the drought.”
An inferred drought, coupled with imaginary wildfires.
Defined as research.

November 12, 2010 3:36 pm

Cassandra, I do believe that we may have a convert within our midst!
Welcome to the real world where trust and integrity fall hand in hand with what is actually happening in our strange planet. Believe me, I know little or nothing about these phenomena, but there are those that do, and this is the site to maintain one’s knowledge.

November 12, 2010 3:52 pm

So, if this drought condition has happened 2 of the last 3 Interglacials – and we are at the very end of the present Interglacial – what’s the problem?

November 12, 2010 3:55 pm

The journal “Global Change Biology” is dedicated to studies of the biological effects of past changes in climate. Such studies would in no way bear upon the reasons why climate changes, but only report findings relative to changes in biological activity due to differing climatic conditions. In any case the instant study is about changes in micro-climate, which has no bearing in some global phenomenon.
I wonder how many studies have been published there about biological change that occurred during climate change due to approaching ice ages. There have been about a dozen of those, and it seems to me that ice is about as likely as fire, given the contemporary state of climate “science.”

Graham Dick
November 12, 2010 3:59 pm

“Catastrophic Drought Looms”
Now where have you heard that before? Enough of these fake-science projections!

James Bull
November 12, 2010 4:06 pm

So John Wyndham was right Triffids do exist!
” a steady warming occurred that caused trees to migrate upslope, just as they are doing today”.

November 12, 2010 4:09 pm

Mr. Courteney, Trees not only help in the preservation of rain cycles, but also hold ground water and top soil. But since nature starts 90-95% of forest fires, then there is probably a good reason for them. Like maybe, if we here in B.C. had let a few fires burn completely 15-20 years ago, we may not be seeing the destruction of those same trees by the Pine beetle and Blue Fungus…
Cassandra – this lack of logic will be with us for a few years more as we are in the midst of a major rise of Kundalini Energy (the Snake) that started about 15 years ago. Kundalini energy is all about emotions, craziness and lack of logic….
Economic Geologist – Kinda remeber something about freezing and evapouration. Maybe the 85% drop in the lakes’ level had to do with 100,000 years of being frozen solid and no precip?

Malaga View
November 12, 2010 4:33 pm

nearby Lake Poopo has dried up but for brief periods
Errrrmmmm….. Wikipedia can be fun sometimes 🙂

Poopó Lake is a large saline lake located in a shallow depression in the Altiplano Mountains in Bolivia at an altitude of approximately 3,700 meters.
The permanent part of the lake body covers approximately 1,000 km².
The lake receives most of its water from the Desaguadero River which links Poopó Lake with Lake Titicaca at the north end of the Altiplano.
Since the lake lacks any major outlet and has a mean depth of no more than 3 m, the surface area varies greatly
When the water level of Titicaca Lake drops below 3,810 m, the flow of Desaguadero River is so low it can no longer compensate for the massive water losses due to evaporation from the surface of Poopó Lake. At this point, the lake volume begins to decrease. At its maximum in 1986, the lake had an area of 3,500 km².
During the years that followed, the surface area steadily decreased until 1994 when the lake disappeared completely. The time period between 1975 and 1992 is the longest period in recent times with a continuous existence of a water body.

And of course the PDO, El Niño and La Niña have no effect on Lake Titicaca…..

The Altiplano (Spanish for high plain), in west-central South America, where the Andes are at their widest, is the most extensive area of high plateau on earth outside of Tibet. Lake Titicaca is its best known geographical feature.
The Atacama Desert, one of the driest areas on the planet, lies to the southwest of the Altiplano; to the east lies the humid Amazon Rainforest.
In extentum, the climate is cool and semi-arid to arid, with mean annual temperatures that vary from 3°C near the western mountain range to 12°C near Lake Titicaca; and total annual rainfalls that range between less than 200 mm to the south west to more than 800 mm near and over Lake Titicaca.

So when they write:
Historical ecology of the Andes indicates desert-like setting on the horizon
What they mean is:
You can see the Atacama Desert on the horizon from the mountain tops.

November 12, 2010 4:49 pm

I did not see a link to the paper. You can’t evaluate science claims just from a press release. Past natural climate warming may have had other features that are all that similar to what is happening now. If climate forecasts call for drying in this region then the comparison’s to past events would be more reasonable. But I’d have to see the paper itself to tell.
Another paper in a tread here talked about increased biodiversity in the Amazon during a past warming event. But that event did not coincide with increased drought as is projected for the Amazon in this warming event and so was not particularly relevant.

Malaga View
November 12, 2010 4:54 pm

nearby Lake Poopo has dried up
Please be assured that the blue stuff covering Lake Poopo on Google Maps is just where someone has spilt some blue ink when the drew the map… honest.

November 12, 2010 5:03 pm

I found the paper. The press release is wrong. The article in the December issue, not the November issue of Global Change Biology.
Nonlinear climate change and Andean feedbacks: an imminent turning point?
1. M. B. BUSH
A 370 000-year paleoecological record from Lake Titicaca provides a detailed record of past climate change in which interglacial periods are seen to have some elements of commonality, but also some key differences. We advance a conceptual feedback model to account for the observed changes that includes previously ignored lake effects. Today Lake Titicaca serves to warm the local environment by about 4–5 °C and also to increase rainfall. We observe that as water levels in the lake are drawn down due to warm, dry, interglacial conditions, there is a possible regional cooling as the lake effect on local microclimates diminishes. Positive feedback mechanisms promote drying until much of the lake basin is reduced to salt marsh. Consequently, the usual concept of upslope migration of species with warming would not be applicable in the Altiplano. If, as projected, the next century brings warmer and drier conditions than those of today, a tipping point appears to exist within ca. 1–2 °C of current temperatures, where the relatively benign agricultural conditions of the northern Altiplano would be replaced by inhospitable arid climates. Such a change would have profound implications for the citizens of the Bolivian capital, La Paz.
So, they do integrate current projections along with the historical data in their analysis. But I have read the paper – just the abstract.

Malaga View
November 12, 2010 5:09 pm

a steady warming occurred that caused trees to migrate upslope, just as they are doing today.
Lets play: Spot the Trees around Lake Titicaca
PS: You will be forgiven if you think the trees have migrated upslope and down the other side into the Amazon Jungle.

November 12, 2010 5:15 pm

“In each case, a steady warming occurred that caused trees to migrate upslope, just as they are doing today.”
Have they got a video of that? I’ve love to see it.
Lord of the Rings 😉

November 12, 2010 5:18 pm

“The evidence is clear that there was a sudden change to a much drier state,” said Bush.
The evidence is clear, we are seeing natural selection in action.

November 12, 2010 5:22 pm

I don’t know about tree seeds, but seeds of crop plants have to have the soil temperature high enough for seeds to sprout.
I suggest that A Mote in God’s Eye (1974) by writers Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle be read.
Crazy Eddie is in charge. It looks as if that Earthlings are quite similar to Moties when it comes to cycles of self destruction.

Malaga View
November 12, 2010 5:33 pm

Tree Line: Andes, Bolivia 18°S
5,200 m (17,100 ft) Western Cordillera; highest treeline in the world on the slopes of Sajama Volcano (Polylepis tarapacana)
4,100 m (13,500 ft) Eastern Cordillera; treeline is lower because of lower solar radiation (more humid climate)
PS: If they migrate another 1,342 m upslope on the Sajama Volcano they will have reached the top… at which point they will probably start marching down the other side.

Billy Liar
November 12, 2010 5:49 pm

Does anyone know the definition of a climate ‘tipping point’?
Is it, like some other things in climate science, ill-defined so it can mean what I want it to mean?

November 12, 2010 5:50 pm

Charles Higley says:
November 12, 2010 at 11:06 am
Yes, as usual, the glaringly obvious in the Ice Core record is overlooked: The interglacials are composed of 2 waves that ride constructively one on top of the other, or widely spaced, there being 2 of them. The Holocene Optimum is cooler than the previous 2, and the next 2 interglacials might resemble #’s 6 & 7, as the 2 waves pull apart. But that will be 80-90 thousand years from now. In the meantime, the next Glacial awaits. What a letdown it will be…. 10,000 years from now.

November 12, 2010 5:55 pm

Engchamp says:
“Children these days are not educated in the true sense of the word “education”. Instead they are fed a nauseous concoction of half-beliefs, rigmarole, pseudo-science and religious poppycock. Teachers of today are hardly to be blamed, for they too have been tarred with the same ‘world order’ brush – exactly according to plan.”
And since when has that changed by any significant degree. That idea that “when we were kids we were told the truth,” is about as accurate as how far it was and now deep the snow was when we walked to school.
As to the thrust of this story keep in mind that if a lake of this size shrinks it is a result of diminished input. That has more to do with regional conditions then local ones.

November 12, 2010 7:40 pm

I am at Titicaca (Puno) for vacations just now. It is raining and there is a lot of vegetation in Peru, and a lot of water in the lake, and it is pretty cold to be summer. I think scientists must travel a little more.

November 12, 2010 8:28 pm

If temperatures rise more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius (3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) above those of modern times, parts of Peru and Bolivia will become a desert-like setting.
If I had a dollar for every “if” in gratuitous climate change projections, I’d be a very wealthy man. But I don’t, and it seems the “ifs” don’t happen either.

November 12, 2010 11:58 pm

Meanwhile, the latest 72 hr, animated MM5 forecast loop shows the development of a strong Pacific High off the coast of California that appears poised to pull a surge of cold North-Canadian air down the U.S. West Coast. Note: The link included always shows the latest forecast…
Current MM5 Forecast Loop

November 13, 2010 12:00 am

Don’t mean to be nitpicky, however…
You know how it’s traditional, when talking about things happening on water, to express speed in knots, direction as starboard/port, distance as nautical miles etc?
Well, when you’re talking about things happening to forests in South America, you’re suppose to describe and quantify in FOOTBALL FIELDS. Eg: In the time you’ve taken to read this article, a FOOTBALL FIELD of Bolivian forest etc etc. Or maybe: According to models, each week one FOOTBALL FIELD of Bolivian forest will etc etc.
So get it right. If Mark the pollen-sifting climatologist wants to be taken seriously and live down that surname…it’s FOOTBALL FIELDS, okay?

November 13, 2010 1:29 am

“”November issue of the journal Global Change Biology.”” Yeah, right!
Seeds land where ever the vagaries of wind and animals take them. If conditions are okay the seeds germinate and grow. If conditions deteriorate the seedlings die. Well developed trees can withstand much harsher conditions than seedlings. You need decades of suitable conditions before you can say “the trees have migrated upslope”. Nature is always pushing the boundarys.

November 13, 2010 4:55 am

Does anyone know the definition of a climate ‘tipping point’?
Final divorce papers sent from Tipper to Al.

amicus curiae
November 13, 2010 5:00 am

ABC National Radio in Aus had a similar piece of Idiocy today! some woman saying that antarctic penguins will be dead from lack of habitat = ice…
and its warming. saturated acid oceans, ozone hole not shrunk..
the whole box and dice of hype and waffle yet again.
Podcasts of the program are available. hearing is Not believin!! how anyone can make these statements!
just like the above.

November 13, 2010 6:09 am

It would appear that tipping points are all the rage recently! As can be seen from recent Hansen et al statements:
‘Polls indicate that the attacks have been effective in causing many members of the public to
doubt the reality or seriousness of global warming
Given this situation, the best hope may be repeated clear description of the science and
passage of sufficient time to confirm validity of the description. A problem with that
prescription is the danger that the climate system could pass tipping points that cause major
climate changes to proceed largely out of humanity’s control [Hansen et al., 2008]. Yet
continuation of careful scientific description of ongoing climate change seems to be essential for
the sake of minimizing the degree of future climate change, even while other ways are sought to
draw attention to the dangers of continued greenhouse gas increases.’
Global Surface Temperature Change
J. Hansen, R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo
NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York, USA
Maybe certain groups think they need to lock us all into carbon taxes before another ‘tipping point’ (one against AGW) comes along?
I wonder what the other ways, mentioned at the end, are!

November 13, 2010 6:38 am

Technically there’s probably nothing wrong with the technical stuff in this report, of course I’m giving them a lot of credit they may not deserve. We really won’t know how accurate their data is for another 50 years, or so. You see, we’re just too shallow in science. Everyone’s so spread out and doing their own little special, unique thing that there just isn’t anyone who know’s enough about what anyone’s talking about to challange them. Kids don’t like math and facts and figures anymore. Heck, they don’t like anything really, not for very long.
Somewhere in time we shot ourselves in the foot and a few other critical places. We’ve lost the ability to interpret data. To draw conclusions that will stand the test of independent review. One day, someone important is going to come to the conclusion that the National Science Foundation isn’t any better than the National Education Association and we’re going to have some big changes, and the In’s will be Out on their ear. We’ll also save a bunch of money; it will be one of those survival of the fittest things –like Darwin said.

November 13, 2010 9:49 am

Well, how unexpected. /sarc off Especially when the Great Salt Lake & other western NA lakes reacted exactly the same — they were much larger during cold periods.
Yes, localized areas can experience more water during cold periods, in part due to less evaporation, and especially when they’re near the margins of glaciers & the associated meltwater.

Billy Liar
November 13, 2010 10:02 am

JohnH says:
November 13, 2010 at 4:55 am

Graham Dick
November 14, 2010 3:23 pm

Bolivians can be assured that, alarmists all-too-predictable projections notwithstanding, what goes around will surely come around!

November 16, 2010 7:44 pm

From the abstract:

relatively benign agricultural conditions of the northern Altiplano would be replaced by inhospitable arid climates

NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND would ever characterize the area of the Altiplano as “relatively benign agricultural conditions.”
I have been across the Altiplano, and the place is desolate and COLD. At 12,000 feet around Lake Titicaca there is almost no vegetation. It is and in historical times always BEEN an inhospitable arid climate. Very little will grow there. Practically the only crops that can grow there are potatoes.
Please be aware that this is WELL within the tropics, yet the average temp is 12C.
Any extra warmth there can only HELP make the area LESS inhospitable.

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