Focus |

Heat Waves & Drought

With rising temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns, heatwaves and droughts are increasing in frequency and intensity. With devastating impacts on both natural and human systems, including mass loss of life, there is clear necessity for improved understanding to benefit adaptation and mitigation efforts.  In this web focus, Nature Climate Change presents a range of original research documenting how drought, heatwaves, and their interactions, may change with anthropogenic warming.

Comment & Review

Drought and heatwaves are inextricably linked, and have devastating socio-economic and environmental impacts. This issue features a suite of articles outlining how these extreme events may increase in magnitude and frequency with anthropogenic warming, highlighting the increased need to mitigate and adapt to future conditions.

Editorial | | Nature Climate Change

Recent studies have produced conflicting results about the impacts of climate change on drought. In this Perspective, a commonly used drought index and observational data are examined to identify the cause of these discrepancies. The authors indicate that improvements in the quality and coverage of precipitation data and quantification of natural variability are necessary to provide a better understanding of how drought is changing.

Perspective | | Nature Climate Change

The dramatic switch from extreme drought to severe flooding in California, and the accompanying flip from atmospheric ridge to trough in the northeastern Pacific, exemplifies the pathways to an intensified water cycle under a warming climate.

Commentary | | Nature Climate Change

The African continent is one of the most vulnerable regions to future climate change. Research now demonstrates that constraining anthropogenic warming to 1.5 °C instead of 2 °C will significantly lower the risk of heatwaves to inhabitants.

News & Views | | Nature Climate Change

Low soil moisture conditions can induce drought but also elevate temperatures. Detailed modelling of the drought–temperature link now shows that rising global temperature will bring drier soils and higher heatwave temperatures in Europe.

News & Views | | Nature Climate Change

Deforestation often increases land-surface and near-surface temperatures, but climate models struggle to simulate this effect. Research now shows that deforestation has increased the severity of extreme heat in temperate regions of North America and Europe. This points to opportunities to mitigate extreme heat.

News & Views | | Nature Climate Change


In 2003, Europe experienced a summer heatwave that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. This study uses observation and model data to show that human influence is increasing the probability of extremely hot summers in Europe, with events now expected to occur twice a decade, compared with predictions of twice a century in the early 2000s.

Letter | | Nature Climate Change

Mean summer temperature in Eastern China has increased by 0.82 °C since the 1950s and five of the hottest summers have occurred since 2000. This study estimates anthropogenic influence to have caused a greater than 60-fold increase in the likelihood of extreme summer heat and projects that hot summers will continue to increase in frequency.

Letter | | Nature Climate Change

Historical records show increased aridity over many land areas since 1950. This study looks at observations and model projections from 1923 to 2010, to test the ability of models to predict future drought conditions. Models are able to capture the greenhouse-gas forcing and El Niño–Southern Oscillation mode for historical periods, which inspires confidence in their projections of drought.

Letter | | Nature Climate Change

Climatic conditions that challenge human thermoregulatory capacity currently affect around a quarter of the world’s population annually. Such conditions are projected to increase in line with CO2 emissions particularly in the humid tropics.

Letter | | Nature Climate Change