Letter

Record-breaking climate extremes in Africa under stabilized 1.5 °C and 2 °C global warming scenarios

  • Nature Climate Changevolume 8pages375380 (2018)
  • doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0145-6
  • Download Citation
Received:
Accepted:
Published:

Abstract

Anthropogenic forcing is anticipated to increase the magnitude and frequency of extreme events1, the impacts of which will be particularly hard-felt in already vulnerable locations such as Africa2. However, projected changes in African climate extremes remain little explored, particularly in the context of the Paris Agreement targets3,4. Here, using Community Earth System Model low warming simulations5, we examine how heat and hydrological extremes may change in Africa under stabilized 1.5 °C and 2 °C scenarios, focusing on the projected changing likelihood of events that have comparable magnitudes to observed record-breaking seasons. In the Community Earth System Model, limiting end-of-century warming to 1.5 °C is suggested to robustly reduce the frequency of heat extremes compared to 2 °C. In particular, the probability of events similar to the December–February 1991/1992 southern African and 2009/2010 North African heat waves is estimated to be reduced by 25 ± 5% and 20 ± 4%, respectively, if warming is limited to 1.5 °C instead of 2 °C. For hydrometeorological extremes (that is, drought and heavy precipitation), by contrast, signal differences are indistinguishable from the variation between ensemble members. Thus, according to this model, continued efforts to limit warming to 1.5 °C offer considerable benefits in terms of minimizing heat extremes and their associated socio-economic impacts across Africa.

  • Subscribe to Nature Climate Change for full access:

    $59

    Subscribe

Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

References

  1. 1.

    Report on the Structured Expert Dialogue on the 2013–2015 Review FCCC/SB/2015/INF.1 (UNFCCC, 2015).

  2. 2.

    Niang, I., et al. in Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (eds Barros, V.R. et al.) 1199–1265 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).

  3. 3.

    Engelbrecht, F. et al. Projections of rapidly rising surface temperatures over Africa under low mitigation. Environ. Res. Lett. 10, 085004 (2015).

  4. 4.

    James, R., Washington, R., Schleussner, C. F., Rogelj, J. & Conway, D. Characterizing half-a-degree difference: a review of methods for identifying regional climate responses to global warming targets. WIRES Clim. Change 8, e457 (2017).

  5. 5.

    Sanderson, B. M. et al. Community climate simulations to assess avoided impacts in 1.5 and 2 °C futures. Earth Syst. Dynam. 8, 827–847 (2017).

  6. 6.

    Rogelj, J. et al. Energy system transformations for limiting end-of-century warming to below 1.5 °C. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 519–527 (2015).

  7. 7.

    Hulme, M. et al. 1.5 °C and climate research after the Paris Agreement. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 222–224 (2016).

  8. 8.

    King, A. D. & Karoly, D. J. Climate extremes in Europe at 1.5 and 2 degrees of global warming. Environ. Res. Lett. 12, 114031 (2017).

  9. 9.

    King, A. D., Karoly, D. J. & Henley, B. J. Australian climate extremes at 1.5 °C and 2 °C of global warming. Nat. Clim. Change 7, 412–416 (2017).

  10. 10.

    Mitchell, D. et al. Half a degree additional warming, prognosis and projected impacts (HAPPI): background and experimental design. Geosci. Model Dev. 10, 571–583 (2017).

  11. 11.

    Lehner, F. et al. Projected drought risk in 1.5°C and 2°C warmer climates. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 7419–7428 (2017).

  12. 12.

    IPCC Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation – SREX Summary for Policymakers (ed. Field, C. B.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012).

  13. 13.

    Reason, C. J. C. & Keibel, A. Tropical cyclone Eline and its unusual penetration and impacts over the Southern African mainland. Weather Forecast. 19, 789–805 (2004).

  14. 14.

    Russo, S., Marchese, A. F., Sillmann, J. & Immé, G. When will unusual Heat Waves become normal in a warming Africa? Environ. Res. Lett. 11, 054016 (2016).

  15. 15.

    Moyo, E. N. & Nangombe, S. S. Southern Africa’s 2012–13 violent storms: role of climate change. Procedia IUTAM 17, 69–78 (2015).

  16. 16.

    Nangombe, S., Madyiwa, S. & Wang, J. Precursor conditions related to Zimbabwe’s summer droughts. Theor. Appl. Climatol. 131, 413–431 (2016).

  17. 17.

    Manatsa, D., Mushore, T. & Lenouo, A. Improved predictability of droughts over southern Africa using the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index and ENSO. Theor. Appl. Climatol. 127, 259–274 (2017).

  18. 18.

    Neelin, J. D., Sahany, S., Stechmann, S. N. & Bernstein, D. N. Global warming precipitation accumulation increases above the current-climate cutoff scale. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 1258–1263 (2017).

  19. 19.

    WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2015 (WMO, 2016); https://public.wmo.int/en/resources/library/wmo-statement-status-of-global-climate-2015

  20. 20.

    Barbier, J., Guichard, D., Bouniol, B., Couvreux, F. & Roehrig, R. Detection of intraseasonal large-scale heat waves: characteristics and historical trends during the Sahelian Spring. J. Clim. 31, 61–80 (2018).

  21. 21.

    Christensen, J. H. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 14 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  22. 22.

    Masters, J. NOAA: June 2010 the globe’s 4th consecutive warmest month on record. WunderBlog (16 July 2010); https://go.nature.com/2Jngrm0

  23. 23.

    Dai, A. Drought under global warming: a review. WIREs Clim. Change 2, 45–65 (2011).

  24. 24.

    Mulenga, H. M., Rouault, M. & Reason, C. J. C. Dry summers over northeastern South Africa and associated circulation anomalies. Clim. Res. 25, 29–41 (2003).

  25. 25.

    Segele, Z. T., Richman, M. B., Leslie, L. M. & Lamb, P. J. Seasonal-to-interannual variability of ethiopia/horn of Africa monsoon. Part II: Statistical multimodel ensemble rainfall predictions. J. Clim. 28, 3511–3536 (2015).

  26. 26.

    Chiang, J. C. H. & Lintner, B. R. Mechanisms of remote tropical surface warming during El Niño. J. Clim. 18, 4130–4149 (2005).

  27. 27.

    Seneviratne, S. I. et al. Impact of soil moisture–climate feedbacks on CMIP5 projections: first results from the GLACE-CMIP5 experiment. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 5212–5217 (2013).

  28. 28.

    Crook, E. R. et al. Old World megadroughts and pluvials during the Common Era. Sci. Adv. 1, e1500561 (2015).

  29. 29.

    Harris, I., Jones, P. D., Osborn, T. J. & Lister, D. H. Updated high-resolution grids of monthly climatic observations—the CRU TS3.10 dataset. Int. J. Climatol. 34, 623–642 (2014).

  30. 30.

    Rohde, R., Muller, R., Jacobsen, R., Perlmutter, S. & Mosher, S. Berkeley Earth temperature averaging process. Geoinfor. Geostat. Overview 1, https://doi.org/10.4172/2327-4581.1000103 (2013).

  31. 31.

    Matsuura, K. & Willmott, C. J. Terrestrial Precipitation: 1900–2014 Gridded Monthly Time Series v.4.01 (Univ. Delaware, accessed 5 October 2017); https://climatedataguide.ucar.edu/climate-data/global-land-precipitation-and-temperature-willmott-matsuura-university-delaware

  32. 32.

    Hansen, J., Ruedy, R., Sato, M. & Lo, K. Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys. 48, RG4004 (2010).

  33. 33.

    Peterson, T. C., Vose, R., Schmoyer, R. & Razuvaev, V. Global historical climatology network (GHCN) quality control of monthly temperature data. Int. J. Climatol. 18, 1169–1179 (1998).

  34. 34.

    Hurrell, J. W. et al. The community earth system model: a framework for collaborative research. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 94, 1339–1360 (2013).

  35. 35.

    Kay, J. E. et al. The Community Earth System Model (CESM) large ensemble project : a community resource for studying climate change in the presence of internal climate variability. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 96, 1333–1349 (2015).

  36. 36.

    Taylor, K. E., Stouffer, R. J. & Meehl, G. A. An overview of CMIP5 and the experimental design. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 93, 485–498 (2012).

  37. 37.

    Kalnay, E. et al. The NCEP/NCAR 40-year reanalysis project. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 77, 437–471 (1996).

  38. 38.

    Kobayashi, S. et al. The JRA-55 reanalysis: general specifications and basic characteristics. J. Meteorol. Soc. Jpn Ser. II 93, 5–48 (2015).

  39. 39.

    Compo, G. P. et al. The Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 137, 1–28 (2011).

  40. 40.

    Poli, P. et al. ERA-20C: an atmospheric reanalysis of the twentieth century. J. Clim. 29, 4083–4097 (2016).

  41. 41.

    Massey, F. J. The Kolmogorov–Smirnov test for goodness of fit. J. Am. Stat. Assoc. 46, 68–78 (2009).

  42. 42.

    van Vuuren, D. P. et al. The Representative Concentration Pathways: an overview. Climatic Change 109, 5–31 (2011).

  43. 43.

    Seager, R., Kushnir, Y., Herweijer, C., Naik, N. & Velez, J. Modeling of tropical forcing of persistent droughts and pluvials over western North America: 1856–2000. J. Clim. 18, 4065–4088 (2005).

  44. 44.

    Coats, S. et al. Internal ocean–atmosphere variability drives megadroughts in Western North America. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 9886–9894 (2016).

  45. 45.

    Routson, C. C., Woodhouse, C. A., Overpeck, J. T., Betancourt, J. L. & McKay, N. P. Teleconnected ocean forcing of western North American droughts and pluvials during the last millennium. Quat. Sci. Rev. 146, 238–250 (2016).

  46. 46.

    Schleussner, C.-F. et al. Differential climate impacts for policy relevant limits to global warming: the case of 1.5°C and 2°C. Earth Syst. Dynam. 7, 327–351 (2016).

  47. 47.

    Herger, N., Sanderson, B. M. & Knutti, R. Improved pattern scaling approaches for the use in climate impact studies. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 3486–3494 (2015).

  48. 48.

    Bindoff, N. L. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) 867–952 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  49. 49.

    Huang, B. et al. Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature version 4 (ERSST.v4). Part I: Upgrades and intercomparisons. J. Clim. 28, 911–930 (2015).

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under grants nos. 41330423 and 41420104006.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. LASG, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

    • Shingirai Nangombe
    • , Tianjun Zhou
    • , Wenxia Zhang
    • , Bo Wu
    • , Shuai Hu
    • , Liwei Zou
    •  & Donghuan Li
  2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

    • Shingirai Nangombe
    • , Tianjun Zhou
    • , Wenxia Zhang
    • , Shuai Hu
    •  & Donghuan Li
  3. Meteorological Services Department, Harare, Zimbabwe

    • Shingirai Nangombe

Authors

  1. Search for Shingirai Nangombe in:

  2. Search for Tianjun Zhou in:

  3. Search for Wenxia Zhang in:

  4. Search for Bo Wu in:

  5. Search for Shuai Hu in:

  6. Search for Liwei Zou in:

  7. Search for Donghuan Li in:

Contributions

T.Z. designed the research. S.N. analysed and drafted the changes in record-breaking climate extremes in Africa under various levels of climate change. S.H. performed the analysis of ENSO conditions associated with extreme hot southern African summers, and B.W. wrote the draft. W.Z. analysed and drafted the probability changes in extreme events in Africa. L.Z. helped organize and revise the draft. D.L. helped derive the data. The whole manuscript was polished by T.Z., N.S. and W.Z. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the results and improvement of the paper. Special thanks go to L. Ren and K. Khumalo for discussions. Thanks also go to NCAR for the release of the CESM low warming experiment products.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tianjun Zhou.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figures 1–9, Supplementary Tables 1–2