Climate and sea surface trends in the Galapagos Islands

Sci Rep. 2021 Jul 14;11(1):14465. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-93870-w.


The Galapagos Islands are a global hotspot of environmental change. However, despite their potentially major repercussions, little is known about current and expected changes in regional terrestrial climate variables and sea surface temperatures (SST). Here, by analysing existing meteorological observations and secondary datasets, we find that the Islands have warmed by about 0.6 °C since the early 1980s, while at the same time becoming drier. In fact, the onset of the wet season is currently delayed 20 days. This drying trend may reverse, however, given that future climate projections for the region suggest mean annual precipitation may increase between 20 and 70%. This would also be accompanied by more extreme wet and hot conditions. Further, we find that regional SST has increased by 1.2 °C over the last two decades. These changes will, in turn, translate into deterioration of marine ecosystems and coral, proliferation of invasive species, and damages to human water, food, and infrastructure systems. Future projections, however, may be overestimated due to the poor capacity of climatic models to capture Eastern-Pacific ENSO dynamics. Our findings emphasize the need to design resilient climate adaptation policies that will remain robust in the face of a wide range of uncertain and changing climatic futures.