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Study reveals the worrying reason that more areas are experiencing tropical weather: 'We hope this can end the long debate'

The most noticeable changes will likely be more extreme weather and population shifts.

Tropical expansion, tropical weather

Photo Credit: iStock

The tropical belt is expanding as part of overheating around the planet, and the result will likely be warmer weather for more people worldwide. 

But experts warn against expecting a widespread tropical paradise as a result. Scientists told Phys.org that the trend could cause migrations, odd weather patterns, and disrupted ecosystems. 

What is the tropical belt?

The tropics are around the middle of the planet where the average temperature is between 77 degrees and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, according to National Geographic. Because of more sun exposure, the belt is warm all year with wet and dry seasons. 

Why is the belt expanding? 

The expanding tropics have been studied for nearly two decades. Phys.org reports that many experts consider the reason for the expansion to be complex. 

Hu Yang, an investigator at the Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory in China, told the website that he thinks the reason is actually simple — ocean warming

New research supports the opinion, but it isn't unquestioned, according to Phys.org. 

"Despite the importance of this phenomenon, the underlying mechanisms driving tropical expansion have been debated for more than 17 years without reaching a consensus," Yang said. "Many scientists believe that the mechanism is very complex."

The sea surface temperature has been rising for the past century. From 1901 through 2020, the average increase was 0.14 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

What's the impact? 

The most noticeable changes will likely be more extreme weather and population shifts, Phys.org reports.

In the U.S., the tropicalization of Southern states could push certain species northward. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said insects, mammals, and plants could migrate. 

Not all of the movement would be negative. The USGS reports that expanded winter habitat for certain manatees and sea turtles that are sensitive to the cold would be a benefit. But others, like pythons, disease-carrying insects, and invasive plants, could cause issues, the USGS notes

How can I help? 

Combating overheating on a global scale can seem like a tall task to tackle, but embracing cleaner technology at home and on the road can contribute to a cool down.

Better EVs and more efficient renewable energy storage tech can make the transition easier. 

Yang is hopeful that a better understanding of the cause of tropical expansion can help to mitigate the impact. 

"We hope this study can end the long debate of [the] mechanism of tropical expansion, and scientists can use this mechanism to better understand and predict the tropical expansion in a changing climate," he told Phys.org.

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