Thursday, October 11, 2012

Iconic figure: global climate space

If I had to vote for an iconic figure from work with which I've been associated, it's the global climate space that Andrew Elmore put together. We used this as the basis for a new Whittaker biome diagram earlier, but when it stands alone it's still pretty special. 

What I like about it is that in just a glance you can appreciate:

  • The extent of places with ice (or potentially underlain by ice). There's a lot of land with mean annual temperature < 0°C.
  • The general wedge shape of precipitation and temperature. 
  • The position of the temperate rainforests that sit around 5°C MAT. 
  • The occurrence of land that receives > 4 m of rain a year.  

This is a figure that needs to be in every ecology-related textbook. The map of continents just never shows this quite right.

One neat way to use this graph is to overlay data from research to understand the distribution of climates in a given study.

For example, I'll use the climate space diagram as the backdrop for arraying the points where we had samples for the soil 15N synthesis. 

You can see in an instant how well (or not) you've covered a particular portion of the climate envelope.

For this study, we're still a bit short on cold sites and hadn't represented the temperate rainforests well. Hot deserts are undersampled, too.

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