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Asymmetry of surface climate change under RCP2.6 projections from the CMIP5 models


The multi-model ensemble (MME) of 20 models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase Five (CMIP5) was used to analyze surface climate change in the 21st century under the representative concentration pathway RCP2.6, to reflect emission mitigation efforts. The maximum increase of surface air temperature (SAT) is 1.86°C relative to the pre-industrial level, achieving the target to limit the global warming to 2°C. Associated with the “increase-peak-decline” greenhouse gases (GHGs) concentration pathway of RCP2.6, the global mean SAT of MME shows opposite trends during two time periods: warming during 2006–55 and cooling during 2056–2100. Our results indicate that spatial distribution of the linear trend of SAT during the warming period exhibited asymmetrical features compared to that during the cooling period. The warming during 2006–55 is distributed globally, while the cooling during 2056–2100 mainly occurred in the NH, the South Indian Ocean, and the tropical South Atlantic Ocean. Different dominant roles of heat flux in the two time periods partly explain the asymmetry. During the warming period, the latent heat flux and shortwave radiation both play major roles in heating the surface air. During the cooling period, the increase of net longwave radiation partly explains the cooling in the tropics and subtropics, which is associated with the decrease of total cloud amount. The decrease of the shortwave radiation accounts for the prominent cooling in the high latitudes of the NH. The surface sensible heat flux, latent heat flux, and shortwave radiation collectively contribute to the especial warming phenomenon in the high-latitude of the SH during the cooling period.

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Correspondence to Xiaoge Xin.

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Xin, X., Cheng, Y., Wang, F. et al. Asymmetry of surface climate change under RCP2.6 projections from the CMIP5 models. Adv. Atmos. Sci. 30, 796–805 (2013).

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Key words

  • climate models
  • climate change
  • projection
  • CMIP5
  • RCP2.6