Climatic Change

, Volume 107, Issue 3–4, pp 615–624 | Cite as

Observational and model evidence of global emergence of permanent, unprecedented heat in the 20th and 21st centuries

A letter
Open Access
Letter

Abstract

Given the severe impacts of extreme heat on natural and human systems, we attempt to quantify the likelihood that rising greenhouse gas concentrations will result in a new, permanent heat regime in which the coolest warm-season of the 21st century is hotter than the hottest warm-season of the late 20th century. Our analyses of global climate model experiments and observational data reveal that many areas of the globe are likely to permanently move into such a climate space over the next four decades, should greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase. In contrast to the common perception that high-latitude areas face the most accelerated response to global warming, our results demonstrate that in fact tropical areas exhibit the most immediate and robust emergence of unprecedented heat, with many tropical areas exhibiting a 50% likelihood of permanently moving into a novel seasonal heat regime in the next two decades. We also find that global climate models are able to capture the observed intensification of seasonal hot conditions, increasing confidence in the projection of imminent, permanent emergence of unprecedented heat.

Supplementary material

10584_2011_112_MOESM1_ESM.eps (712 kb)
(EPS 712 KB)
10584_2011_112_MOESM2_ESM.eps (36.8 mb)
(EPS 36.7 MB)
10584_2011_112_MOESM3_ESM.eps (34.4 mb)
(EPS 34.3 MB)
10584_2011_112_MOESM4_ESM.eps (34.4 mb)
(EPS 34.3 MB)
10584_2011_112_MOESM5_ESM.eps (490 kb)
(EPS 489 KB)
10584_2011_112_MOESM6_ESM.eps (606 kb)
(EPS 606 KB)
10584_2011_112_MOESM7_ESM.eps (13.6 mb)
(EPS 13.5 MB)
10584_2011_112_MOESM8_ESM.eps (13.5 mb)
(EPS 13.5 MB)

References

  1. Ashfaq M et al (2009) Suppression of south Asian summer monsoon precipitation in the 21st century. Geophys Res Lett 36:L01704. doi:10.1029/2008GL036500 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Battisti DS, Naylor RL (2009) Historical warnings of future food insecurity with unprecedented seasonal heat. Science 323(5911):240–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carter TR et al (2007) New assessment methods and the characterisation of future conditions. In: Parry ML et al (eds) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 133–171Google Scholar
  4. Christensen JH et al (2007) Regional climate projections. In: Solomon S et al (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Ciais P et al (2005) Europe-wide reduction in primary productivity caused by the heat and drought in 2003. Nature 437(7058):529–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clark RT, Murphy JM, Brown SJ (2010) Do global warming targets limit heatwave risk? Geophys Res Lett 37. doi:10.1029/2010GL043898 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Diffenbaugh NS, Ashfaq M (2010) Intensification of hot extremes in the United States. Geophys Res Lett 37:L15701. doi:10.1029/2010GL043888 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Giorgi F, Bi X (2005) Updated regional precipitation and temperature changes for the 21st century from ensembles of recent AOGCM simulations. Geophys Res Lett 32:L21715. doi:10.1029/2005GL024288 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Giorgi F, Bi X (2009) Time of emergence (TOE) of GHG-forced precipitation change hot-spots. Geophys Res Lett 36:L06709. doi:10.1029/2009GL037593 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. IPCC W.G.I. (2000) Special report on emissions scenarios. In: Nakicenovic N, Swart R (eds) Intergovernmental panel on climate change special reports on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p 570Google Scholar
  11. IPCC W.G.I. (2000) Special report on emissions scenarios. In: Nakicenovic N, Swart R (eds) Intergovernmental panel on climate change special reports on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p 570Google Scholar
  12. Knutti R et al (2010) Challenges in combining projections from multiple climate models. J Climate 23(10):2739–2758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Matsuura K, Willmott CJ (2009) Terrestrial air temperature: 1900–2008 gridded monthly time series (version 2.01). http://climate.geog.udel.edu/~climate/html_pages/Global2_Ts_2009/README.global_t_ts_2009.html
  14. Meehl GA et al (2007a) Global climate projections. In: Solomon S et al (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  15. Meehl GA et al (2007b) The WCRP CMIP3 multimodel dataset—a new era in climate change research. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 88(9):1383–1394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Patz JA et al (2005) Impact of regional climate change on human health. Nature 438(7066):310–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Poumadere M et al (2005) The 2003 heat wave in France: dangerous climate change here and now. Risk Anal 25(6):1483–1494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Raupach MR et al (2007) Global and regional drivers of accelerating CO2 emissions. Proc Natl Acad Sci 104(24):10288–10293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Schlenker W, Roberts MJ (2009) Nonlinear temperature effects indicate severe damages to US crop yields under climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106(37):15594–15598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Sherwood SC, Huber M (2010) An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107(21):9552–9555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Taylor KE, Stouffer RJ, Meehl GA (2009) A summary of the CMIP5 experimental design, 18 December 2009. PCMDI, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, p 32Google Scholar
  22. UNDP (2007) Human Development Report 2007/2008: fighting climate change: human solidarity in a divided world. Palgrave Macmillan for the United Nations Development Programme, New York, NY, p 384Google Scholar
  23. UNFCCC (2009) The Copenhagen Accord. Fifteenth session, Copenhagen, 7–18 December 2009, vol FCCC/CP/2009/L.7. The United Nations, p 5Google Scholar
  24. White MA et al (2006) Extreme heat reduces and shifts United States premium wine production in the 21st century. Proc Natl Acad Sci 103(30):11217–11222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Willmott CJ, Matsuura K (2001) Terrestrial air temperature and precipitation: monthly and annual time series (1950–1999). University of Delaware. http://climate.geog.udel.edu/~climate/html_pages/air_ts2.html

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Earth System Science and Woods Institute for the EnvironmentStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations