It is widely known (to the general audience, I'm not a climatologist) that global warming will let the desert climates migrate further away from the equator towards the poles, such that the South of Europe is becoming more and more desert-ish. (see e.g. this article)

Now my question is: if the desert climates migrate; will the tropical climates also migrate / expand to a broader belt around the equator? Often, it is possible to live quite comfortably as a human in such a region.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Interesting question. Increased temperature likely increases also the evaporation, causing more rains, but other effects might overwhelm this. Hopefully someone knowing better the clima models will know it. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 14:03

1 Answer 1


It depends on how you define the tropics. Strictly speaking, the tropics can be defined as the area between the tropic of capricorn and the tropic of cancer (23.5$^\circ$N/S respectively). This is because of the earth's axial tilt of 23.5$^\circ$. Since I don't think that the climate change will affect the axial tilt too much, I doubt it.

However, if you define the tropics in terms of climate, probably. Since the Hadley cell is expected to expand with more greenhouse gases, it follows that the tropical weather that accompanies the Hadley cell should expand with it.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer! I think the story for desertification is similar (on the axial tilt dependence)? $\endgroup$
    – Wouter
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Wouter I don't think so. The majority of the Earth's deserts lie on the sinking branch of the Hadley cell. So deserts should move northward with climate change. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that's what I meant: desertification isn't originating from astronomical reasons either :) $\endgroup$
    – Wouter
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 2:57

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