Letter | Published:

Rapid increase in the risk of extreme summer heat in Eastern China

Nature Climate Change volume 4, pages 10821085 (2014) | Download Citation

Abstract

The summer of 2013 was the hottest on record in Eastern China. Severe extended heatwaves affected the most populous and economically developed part of China and caused substantial economic and societal impacts1. The estimated direct economic losses from the accompanying drought alone total 59 billion RMB (ref. 2). Summer (June–August) mean temperature in the region has increased by 0.82 °C since reliable observations were established in the 1950s, with the five hottest summers all occurring in the twenty-first century. It is challenging to attribute extreme events to causes3,4,5,6. Nevertheless, quantifying the causes of such extreme summer heat and projecting its future likelihood is necessary to develop climate adaptation strategies7. We estimate that anthropogenic influence has caused a more than 60-fold increase in the likelihood of the extreme warm 2013 summer since the early 1950s, and project that similarly hot summers will become even more frequent in the future, with fully 50% of summers being hotter than the 2013 summer in two decades even under the moderate RCP4.5 emissions scenario. Without adaptation to reduce vulnerability to the effects of extreme heat, this would imply a rapid increase in risks from extreme summer heat to Eastern China.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    China Climate Bulletin 2013 p50 (China Meteorological Administration, 2014).

  2. 2.

    et al. Climatic characteristics over China in 2013. Meteorol. Mon. 40, 491–501 (2014).

  3. 3.

    et al. in Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (eds Field, C. B. et al.) 109–230 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012).

  4. 4.

    et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) 910–916 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  5. 5.

    , & Explaining extreme events of 2011 from a climate perspective. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 93, 1041–1067 (2012).

  6. 6.

    , , & Explaining extreme events of 2012 from a climate perspective. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 94, S1–S74 (2013).

  7. 7.

    et al. in Climate Science for Serving Society: Research, Modelling and Prediction Priorities (eds Asrar, G. R. & Hurrell, J. W.) 307–337 (Springer, 2013).

  8. 8.

    , & Multimodel multisignal climate change detection at regional scale. J. Clim. 19, 4294–4307 (2006).

  9. 9.

    , & Anthropogenic influence on extreme daily temperatures at regional scales. J. Clim. 24, 881–892 (2011).

  10. 10.

    , , & Detecting human influence on extreme temperatures in China. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 1171–1176 (2013).

  11. 11.

    , & Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003. Nature 432, 610–613 (2004).

  12. 12.

    et al. Was there a basis for anticipating the 2010 Russian heat wave. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L06702 (2011).

  13. 13.

    , , , & Reconciling two approaches to attribution of the 2010 Russian heat wave. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L04702 (2012).

  14. 14.

    et al. The representative concentration pathways: An overview. Climatic Change 109, 5–31 (2011).

  15. 15.

    & A projection of future changes in summer precipitation and monsoon in East Asia. Sci. China Earth Sci. 53, 284–300 (2010).

  16. 16.

    et al. The relative roles of upper and lower tropospheric thermal contrasts and tropical influences in driving Asian summer monsoons. J. Geophys. Res. 118, 7024–7045 (2013).

  17. 17.

    , & An overview of CMIP5 and the experiment design. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 93, 485–498 (2012).

  18. 18.

    & Checking for model consistency in optimal fingerprinting. Clim. Dynam. 15, 419–434 (1999).

  19. 19.

    , , , & Quantifying the uncertainty in forecasts of anthropogenic climate change. Nature 407, 617–620 (2000).

  20. 20.

    , & Urbanization effects on observed surface air temperature trends in North China. J. Clim. 21, 1333–1348 (2008).

  21. 21.

    , & Observed surface warming induced by urbanization in east China. J. Geophy. Res. 116, D14113 (2011).

  22. 22.

    & Urbanization effects on trends of extreme temperature indices of national stations over mainland China, 1961–2008. J. Clim. 27, 2340–2360 (2014).

  23. 23.

    , , & Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 1704–1709 (2009).

  24. 24.

    & Estimating signal amplitudes in optimal fingerprinting. Part I: Theory. Clim. Dynam. 21, 477–491 (2003).

  25. 25.

    et al. Multi-fingerprint detection and attribution of greenhouse-gas and aerosol-forced climate change. Clim. Dynam. 13, 613–634 (1997).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank G. Flato and S. Kharin for their comments on an early draft. Y.S., L.S., T.H., H.Y. and G.R. are supported by China funding agencies through multiple grants: 2012CB955902, GYHY201406020, 2012CB417205, CCSF201342 and GYHY201206012. We acknowledge the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison and the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling for their roles in making the WCRP CMIP multi-model data sets available.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. National Climate Center, China Meteorological Administration, Beijing 100081, China

    • Ying Sun
    • , Lianchun Song
    • , Ting Hu
    • , Hong Yin
    •  & Guoyu Ren
  2. Climate Research Division, Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario M3H 5T4, Canada

    • Xuebin Zhang
    •  & Hui Wan
  3. Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 2Y2, Canada

    • Francis W. Zwiers

Authors

  1. Search for Ying Sun in:

  2. Search for Xuebin Zhang in:

  3. Search for Francis W. Zwiers in:

  4. Search for Lianchun Song in:

  5. Search for Hui Wan in:

  6. Search for Ting Hu in:

  7. Search for Hong Yin in:

  8. Search for Guoyu Ren in:

Contributions

X.Z. and Y.S. designed the analysis. H.W., Y.S., T.H. and H.Y. conducted the analysis. Y.S. and X.Z. wrote the initial draft. F.W.Z. and L.S. helped with the analysis and edited the manuscript. G.R. identified the rural stations for the estimation of urbanization effects in temperature and helped in the analysis and interpretation of urbanization effects.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xuebin Zhang.

Supplementary information

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2410

Further reading