Reduced North American terrestrial primary productivity linked to anomalous Arctic warming

Published by Ecoss on

Warming temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere have enhanced terrestrial productivity. Despite the warming trend, North America has experienced more frequent and more intense cold weather events during winters and springs. These events have been linked to anomalous Arctic warming since 1990, and may affect terrestrial processes. Here we analyse multiple observation data sets and numerical model simulations to evaluate links between Arctic temperatures and primary productivity in North America. We find that positive springtime temperature anomalies in the Arctic have led to negative anomalies in gross primary productivity over most of North America during the last three decades, which amount to a net productivity decline of 0.31 PgC yr−1across the continent. This decline is mainly explained by two factors: severe cold conditions in northern North America and lower precipitation in the South Central United States. In addition, United States crop-yield data reveal that during years experiencing anomalous warming in the Arctic, yields declined by approximately 1 to 4% on average, with individual states experiencing declines of up to 20%. We conclude that the strengthening of Arctic warming anomalies in the past decades has remotely reduced productivity over North America.