Letters

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  • Letter |

    Drought frequency will probably increase under climate change, posing a potential risk to forests. Forest response is variable, but subsequent droughts generally have a negative impact at the tree and ecosystem scales, with systems dominated by conifers particularly vulnerable.

    • William R. L. Anderegg
    • , Anna T. Trugman
    • , Grayson Badgley
    • , Alexandra G. Konings
    •  & John Shaw
  • Letter |

    Short-term extreme weather events such as hourly heat can negatively impact crop yields. US maize and soy yields are damaged by rare extreme hourly downpours, but benefit from more common heavy rainfall, indicating yields may benefit from increasing precipitation intensity under climate change.

    • Corey Lesk
    • , Ethan Coffel
    •  & Radley Horton
  • Letter |

    Polar bear numbers are expected to decline as the sea ice they rely on to catch their prey declines with global warming. Projections show when fasts caused by declining sea ice are likely to lead to rapid recruitment and survival declines across the polar bear circumpolar range.

    • Péter K. Molnár
    • , Cecilia M. Bitz
    • , Marika M. Holland
    • , Jennifer E. Kay
    • , Stephanie R. Penk
    •  & Steven C. Amstrup
  • Letter |

    Phenological shifts due to warming extend the growing season for plants, with implications for ecosystem productivity. Carbon uptake through photosynthesis is limited by radiation, particularly in autumn, which explains contrasting regional responses of autumn carbon uptake to rising temperatures.

    • Yao Zhang
    • , Róisín Commane
    • , Sha Zhou
    • , A. Park Williams
    •  & Pierre Gentine
  • Letter |

    Large-scale mechanisms causing regional drying are not well understood. Models and observational data reveal that human-caused changes in GHGs and aerosols led to detectable global and hemispheric signals in the joint behaviour of precipitation, temperature and aridity since the 1950s.

    • Céline J. W. Bonfils
    • , Benjamin D. Santer
    • , John C. Fyfe
    • , Kate Marvel
    • , Thomas J. Phillips
    •  & Susan R. H. Zimmerman
  • Letter |

    The United States experienced two of its hottest recorded summers in 1934 and 1936, amplified by drier soils associated with the Dust Bowl drought. A large regional climate model ensemble estimates present-day GHGs would cause similarly extreme, 1-in-100-year heatwaves to occur about every 40 years.

    • Tim Cowan
    • , Sabine Undorf
    • , Gabriele C. Hegerl
    • , Luke J. Harrington
    •  & Friederike E. L. Otto
  • Letter |

    Arctic lake methane emissions, which occur primarily by ebullition, are difficult to quantify from extrapolating in situ data due to spatial and temporal variability. Remote sensing can detect ebullition, through changes in frozen lake surface properties, reducing uncertainty in emission fluxes.

    • M. Engram
    • , K. M. Walter Anthony
    • , T. Sachs
    • , K. Kohnert
    • , A. Serafimovich
    • , G. Grosse
    •  & F. J. Meyer
  • Letter |

    Natural decadal variability has a role in global mean surface temperature trends. Observational data and modelling show that since the mid-1980s, the tropical eastern Pacific variability and the cold ocean–warm land pattern have covaried to enhance acceleration and deceleration in warming trends.

    • Jun-Chao Yang
    • , Xiaopei Lin
    • , Shang-Ping Xie
    • , Yu Zhang
    • , Yu Kosaka
    •  & Ziguang Li
  • Letter |

    Arctic lakes and their resident fish species are warming rapidly. Geospatial analysis of Canadian Arctic lakes predicts a 20% increase in lake trout productivity by 2050 and a 29% increase in harvestable biomass across an expanded range.

    • Steven E. Campana
    • , John M. Casselman
    • , Cynthia M. Jones
    • , Gerald Black
    • , Oliver Barker
    • , Marlene Evans
    • , Matthew M. Guzzo
    • , Raouf Kilada
    • , Andrew M. Muir
    •  & Robert Perry
  • Letter |

    Models overestimate Arctic methane emissions compared to observations. Incorporating microbial dynamics into biogeochemistry models helps reconcile this discrepancy; high-affinity methanotrophs are an important part of the Arctic methane budget and double previous estimates of methane sinks.

    • Youmi Oh
    • , Qianlai Zhuang
    • , Licheng Liu
    • , Lisa R. Welp
    • , Maggie C. Y. Lau
    • , Tullis C. Onstott
    • , David Medvigy
    • , Lori Bruhwiler
    • , Edward J. Dlugokencky
    • , Gustaf Hugelius
    • , Ludovica D’Imperio
    •  & Bo Elberling
  • Letter |

    Coal use is responsible for a large proportion of climate damages. This study shows that phasing out coal yields substantial near-term, local environmental and health benefits that outweigh direct policy costs, providing incentives for immediate climate action.

    • Sebastian Rauner
    • , Nico Bauer
    • , Alois Dirnaichner
    • , Rita Van Dingenen
    • , Chris Mutel
    •  & Gunnar Luderer
  • Letter |

    Erosion is a major problem facing sandy beaches that will probably worsen with climate change and sea-level rise. Half the world’s beaches, many of which are in densely populated areas, could disappear by the end of the century under current trends; mitigation could lessen retreat by 40%.

    • Michalis I. Vousdoukas
    • , Roshanka Ranasinghe
    • , Lorenzo Mentaschi
    • , Theocharis A. Plomaritis
    • , Panagiotis Athanasiou
    • , Arjen Luijendijk
    •  & Luc Feyen
  • Letter |

    Anthropogenic aerosols mask some greenhouse warming via radiation scattering and cloud interactions. Research suggests the economic impact of this aerosol-induced cooling was small globally, although it benefitted developing countries in warm climates and harmed high-latitude developed countries.

    • Yixuan Zheng
    • , Steven J. Davis
    • , Geeta G. Persad
    •  & Ken Caldeira
  • Letter |

    Earth’s energy imbalance from human and natural drivers—effective radiative forcing—is difficult to constrain, contributing to uncertainty in long-term climate change. A top-down observational constraint reduces IPCC AR5 assessed uncertainty by nearly 40% and suggests models are biased low.

    • Timothy Andrews
    •  & Piers M. Forster
  • Letter |

    Intergenerational inheritance of traits in corals can help species survive environmental change. Examination of intergenerational DNA methylation profiles in a reef-building coral shows there to be genome-wide inheritance, with the potential for adaptive capacity to environmental stressors.

    • Yi Jin Liew
    • , Emily J. Howells
    • , Xin Wang
    • , Craig T. Michell
    • , John A. Burt
    • , Youssef Idaghdour
    •  & Manuel Aranda
  • Letter |

    Warming in the Arctic has been thought to cause mid-latitude weather and climate changes. Simulations show Arctic changes have small influence outside of high latitudes, with background global warming exerting more influence over mid-latitude winter precipitation and wind changes.

    • Aiguo Dai
    •  & Mirong Song
  • Letter |

    Climate change induced warming, hypoxia and acidification threaten marine species. Experimental work shows that the susceptibility of clades to climate-related stressors in the modern ocean is related to their extinction risk in the fossil record, which could allow prediction of future responses.

    • Carl J. Reddin
    • , Paulina S. Nätscher
    • , Ádám T. Kocsis
    • , Hans-Otto Pörtner
    •  & Wolfgang Kiessling
  • Letter |

    Anthropogenic aerosol emissions decreased over North America and Europe but increased over Asia since the 1970s. This caused jet stream winds to shift poleward over the Atlantic, decreasing planetary wave activity and partially inhibiting extreme winter weather over northern Eurasia.

    • Yuan Wang
    • , Tianhao Le
    • , Gang Chen
    • , Yuk L. Yung
    • , Hui Su
    • , John H. Seinfeld
    •  & Jonathan H. Jiang
  • Letter |

    The stability of climatic conditions since the Last Glacial Maximum has contributed to current global patterns of species richness. Changes in patterns of climate stability this century reveal areas where climate change could reduce biodiversity, with largest losses in past climatic safe havens.

    • Stuart C. Brown
    • , Tom M. L. Wigley
    • , Bette L. Otto-Bliesner
    • , Carsten Rahbek
    •  & Damien A. Fordham
  • Letter |

    Ozone forms in the atmosphere when other anthropogenically emitted gases react with sunlight and negatively impacts terrestrial gross primary productivity (GPP). Reducing emissions of ozone precursors by 50%, particularly in the road transportation and energy sectors, could increase GPP by 750 TgC yr–1.

    • Nadine Unger
    • , Yiqi Zheng
    • , Xu Yue
    •  & Kandice L. Harper
  • Letter |

    The rapid growth of climate change research presents challenges for IPCC assessments and their stated aim of being comprehensive, objective and transparent. Here the authors use topic modelling to map the climate change literature, and assess how well it is represented in IPCC reports.

    • Max W. Callaghan
    • , Jan C. Minx
    •  & Piers M. Forster
  • Letter |

    Crustose coralline algae help build coral reef structures through calcification, a process threatened under ocean acidification. Juvenile algae were highly sensitive on initial exposure to ocean acidification, but continued exposure over six generations showed a gain of tolerance.

    • C. E. Cornwall
    • , S. Comeau
    • , T. M. DeCarlo
    • , E. Larcombe
    • , B. Moore
    • , K. Giltrow
    • , F. Puerzer
    • , Q. D’Alexis
    •  & M. T. McCulloch
  • Letter |

    Arctic warming is attributed to GHGs and feedbacks, but the specific contribution of ozone-depleting substances (ODS)—also potent GHGs—has never been quantified. Here, model simulations suggest ODS contributed 0.8°C of Arctic warming and led to considerable sea-ice loss during the period 1955–2005. [This summary has been amended to reflect the addendum published 28 January 2020]

    • L. M. Polvani
    • , M. Previdi
    • , M. R. England
    • , G. Chiodo
    •  & K. L. Smith
  • Letter |

    The relative roles of local and remote processes in determining equatorial warming are still debated. Model simulations show that coupled feedbacks strongly damp the equatorial surface temperature response to local equatorial forcing, while amplifying the response to remote off-equatorial forcing.

    • Malte F. Stuecker
    • , Axel Timmermann
    • , Fei-Fei Jin
    • , Cristian Proistosescu
    • , Sarah M. Kang
    • , Doyeon Kim
    • , Kyung-Sook Yun
    • , Eui-Seok Chung
    • , Jung-Eun Chu
    • , Cecilia M. Bitz
    • , Kyle C. Armour
    •  & Michiya Hayashi
  • Letter |

    Detection and attribution typically aims to find long-term climate signals in internal, often short-term variability. Here, common methods are extended to high-frequency temperature and humidity data, detecting instantaneous, global-scale climate change since 1999 for any year and 2012 for any day.

    • Sebastian Sippel
    • , Nicolai Meinshausen
    • , Erich M. Fischer
    • , Enikő Székely
    •  & Reto Knutti
  • Letter |

    N2O emissions from rivers have increased globally by a factor of four between 1900 and 2016, with emissions starting to decline since the early 2000s. Most riverine N2O emissions come from smaller streams, driven primarily by the use of nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture.

    • Yuanzhi Yao
    • , Hanqin Tian
    • , Hao Shi
    • , Shufen Pan
    • , Rongting Xu
    • , Naiqing Pan
    •  & Josep G. Canadell
  • Letter |

    It has been assumed that spatial patterns of warming are the same under transient and equilibrium scenarios. Analysis of a multi-model ensemble shows that this is not the case, with greater land warming for a transient state, increasing risks that need to be considered in adaptation planning.

    • Andrew D. King
    • , Todd P. Lane
    • , Benjamin J. Henley
    •  & Josephine R. Brown
  • Letter |

    Climate change affects the timing of bird migration, which can lead to mismatch with resource availability. Migration occurred earlier in spring and autumn in the United States during the past 24 years; warming led to later arrival in the western Unites States and earlier arrival in the rest of the country.

    • Kyle G. Horton
    • , Frank A. La Sorte
    • , Daniel Sheldon
    • , Tsung-Yu Lin
    • , Kevin Winner
    • , Garrett Bernstein
    • , Subhransu Maji
    • , Wesley M. Hochachka
    •  & Andrew Farnsworth
  • Letter |

    The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), a natural climate cycle, alters global climate and influences ecosystems as it varies between positive and negative phases. PDO predictability is reduced under warming as intensified ocean stratification shortens its lifespan and curtails its amplitude.

    • Shujun Li
    • , Lixin Wu
    • , Yun Yang
    • , Tao Geng
    • , Wenju Cai
    • , Bolan Gan
    • , Zhaohui Chen
    • , Zhao Jing
    • , Guojian Wang
    •  & Xiaohui Ma
  • Letter |

    The risk of concurrent climate extremes affecting breadbasket regions is increasing with climate change, with wheat, maize and soybean crops at risk of simultaneous failure. Correlation between the regions and climate extremes should be considered to ensure food security in the future.

    • Franziska Gaupp
    • , Jim Hall
    • , Stefan Hochrainer-Stigler
    •  & Simon Dadson
  • Letter |

    A large-scale meandering in the jet stream can cause simultaneous heat extremes in distant regions. When Rossby waves with wavenumbers 5 and 7 dominate circulation, there is an increased risk of heat extremes across major food-producing regions, raising the potential of multiple crop failures.

    • Kai Kornhuber
    • , Dim Coumou
    • , Elisabeth Vogel
    • , Corey Lesk
    • , Jonathan F. Donges
    • , Jascha Lehmann
    •  & Radley M. Horton
  • Letter |

    Terrestrial primary productivity will increase with CO2 fertilization, but water limitation will decrease this positive effect. Analyses of Earth system model projections show that extreme droughts will have a much stronger impact on future productivity than mild and moderate droughts.

    • Chonggang Xu
    • , Nate G. McDowell
    • , Rosie A. Fisher
    • , Liang Wei
    • , Sanna Sevanto
    • , Bradley O. Christoffersen
    • , Ensheng Weng
    •  & Richard S. Middleton
  • Letter |

    The ways in which ocean communities respond to warming are related to their composition. The variety of thermal affinities and thermal ranges of individual species, along with vertical temperature gradients, shape community response and allow the prediction of regional responses to warming.

    • Michael T. Burrows
    • , Amanda E. Bates
    • , Mark J. Costello
    • , Martin Edwards
    • , Graham J. Edgar
    • , Clive J. Fox
    • , Benjamin S. Halpern
    • , Jan G. Hiddink
    • , Malin L. Pinsky
    • , Ryan D. Batt
    • , Jorge García Molinos
    • , Benjamin L. Payne
    • , David S. Schoeman
    • , Rick D. Stuart-Smith
    •  & Elvira S. Poloczanska
  • Letter |

    Opinions on climate policy in the United States are politically polarized. Here, survey research shows that opinion polarization on the Green New Deal developed rapidly due to decreasing support among Republicans, which was associated with exposure to conservative media and increasing familiarity with the policy.

    • Abel Gustafson
    • , Seth A. Rosenthal
    • , Matthew T. Ballew
    • , Matthew H. Goldberg
    • , Parrish Bergquist
    • , John E. Kotcher
    • , Edward W. Maibach
    •  & Anthony Leiserowitz
  • Letter |

    Natural peatlands accumulate carbon but land-use change and drainage leads to emission of GHGs from peatlands. Loss of natural peatland area globally has shifted the peatland biome from a sink to a source of carbon, but restoration of drained peatlands could make them carbon neutral.

    • Jens Leifeld
    • , Chloé Wüst-Galley
    •  & Susan Page
  • Letter |

    Nitrous oxide, a strong GHG, is produced during nitrification. Changes in ocean pH cause its production to increase, relative to nitrification rates, suggesting large potential increases in the future as ocean acidification continues.

    • Florian Breider
    • , Chisato Yoshikawa
    • , Akiko Makabe
    • , Sakae Toyoda
    • , Masahide Wakita
    • , Yohei Matsui
    • , Shinsuke Kawagucci
    • , Tetsuichi Fujiki
    • , Naomi Harada
    •  & Naohiro Yoshida
  • Letter |

    Permafrost thaw due to rising temperatures will impact soil hydrology in the Arctic. Abrupt changes in soil moisture and land–atmosphere processes may alter the bearing capacity of soil and increase susceptibility to wildfires, with consequences for adapting engineering systems in the region.

    • B. Teufel
    •  & L. Sushama
  • Letter |

    Increasingly, financial institutions will be exposed to climate risks that will exacerbate the negative economic impacts of climate change. An agent-based integrated assessment model is used to analyse climate impacts on the global banking system, finding an increase in banking crises and public bailout costs.

    • Francesco Lamperti
    • , Valentina Bosetti
    • , Andrea Roventini
    •  & Massimo Tavoni
  • Letter |

    Winter warming in the Arctic will increase the CO2 flux from soils. A pan-Arctic analysis shows a current loss of 1,662 TgC per year over the winter, exceeding estimated carbon uptake in the growing season; projections suggest a 17% increase under RCP 4.5 and a 41% increase under RCP 8.5 by 2100.

    • Susan M. Natali
    • , Jennifer D. Watts
    • , Brendan M. Rogers
    • , Stefano Potter
    • , Sarah M. Ludwig
    • , Anne-Katrin Selbmann
    • , Patrick F. Sullivan
    • , Benjamin W. Abbott
    • , Kyle A. Arndt
    • , Leah Birch
    • , Mats P. Björkman
    • , A. Anthony Bloom
    • , Gerardo Celis
    • , Torben R. Christensen
    • , Casper T. Christiansen
    • , Roisin Commane
    • , Elisabeth J. Cooper
    • , Patrick Crill
    • , Claudia Czimczik
    • , Sergey Davydov
    • , Jinyang Du
    • , Jocelyn E. Egan
    • , Bo Elberling
    • , Eugenie S. Euskirchen
    • , Thomas Friborg
    • , Hélène Genet
    • , Mathias Göckede
    • , Jordan P. Goodrich
    • , Paul Grogan
    • , Manuel Helbig
    • , Elchin E. Jafarov
    • , Julie D. Jastrow
    • , Aram A. M. Kalhori
    • , Yongwon Kim
    • , John S. Kimball
    • , Lars Kutzbach
    • , Mark J. Lara
    • , Klaus S. Larsen
    • , Bang-Yong Lee
    • , Zhihua Liu
    • , Michael M. Loranty
    • , Magnus Lund
    • , Massimo Lupascu
    • , Nima Madani
    • , Avni Malhotra
    • , Roser Matamala
    • , Jack McFarland
    • , A. David McGuire
    • , Anders Michelsen
    • , Christina Minions
    • , Walter C. Oechel
    • , David Olefeldt
    • , Frans-Jan W. Parmentier
    • , Norbert Pirk
    • , Ben Poulter
    • , William Quinton
    • , Fereidoun Rezanezhad
    • , David Risk
    • , Torsten Sachs
    • , Kevin Schaefer
    • , Niels M. Schmidt
    • , Edward A. G. Schuur
    • , Philipp R. Semenchuk
    • , Gaius Shaver
    • , Oliver Sonnentag
    • , Gregory Starr
    • , Claire C. Treat
    • , Mark P. Waldrop
    • , Yihui Wang
    • , Jeffrey Welker
    • , Christian Wille
    • , Xiaofeng Xu
    • , Zhen Zhang
    • , Qianlai Zhuang
    •  & Donatella Zona
  • Letter |

    Ocean warming and acidification will affect the structure and bioavailability of biomolecules. The toxic form of two neurotoxins will increase with climate change, presenting an ecotoxicology risk with global hotspots as exemplified by saxitoxin toxicity in Alaskan butter clam.

    • C. C. Roggatz
    • , N. Fletcher
    • , D. M. Benoit
    • , A. C. Algar
    • , A. Doroff
    • , B. Wright
    • , K. C. Wollenberg Valero
    •  & J. D. Hardege
  • Letter |

    Improved predictions of coral bleaching are critical. In a coordinated global survey effort during the 2016 El Niño, time-series patterns of peak hot temperatures, cool period durations and temperature bimodality were found to be better predictors of coral bleaching than common threshold metrics.

    • Tim R. McClanahan
    • , Emily S. Darling
    • , Joseph M. Maina
    • , Nyawira A. Muthiga
    • , Stéphanie D ’agata
    • , Stacy D. Jupiter
    • , Rohan Arthur
    • , Shaun K. Wilson
    • , Sangeeta Mangubhai
    • , Yashika Nand
    • , Ali M. Ussi
    • , Austin T. Humphries
    • , Vardhan J. Patankar
    • , Mireille M. M. Guillaume
    • , Sally A. Keith
    • , George Shedrawi
    • , Pagu Julius
    • , Gabriel Grimsditch
    • , January Ndagala
    •  & Julien Leblond
  • Letter |

    A 30-year dataset shows that marsh plants increased primary productivity and stem density with CO2 enrichment, but diameter and height decreased under nitrogen limitation. The addition of nitrogen reversed these changes, which is important to allow marshes to keep pace with rising sea levels.

    • Meng Lu
    • , Ellen R. Herbert
    • , J. Adam Langley
    • , Matthew L. Kirwan
    •  & J. Patrick Megonigal
  • Letter |

    Understanding which factors influence future economic impacts from climate change is important for informing mitigation and adaptation strategies. This study demonstrates that projected economic impacts are primarily attributed to variation in socioeconomic development and future emissions trajectories, rather than uncertainties in the climate response.

    • Jun’ya Takakura
    • , Shinichiro Fujimori
    • , Naota Hanasaki
    • , Tomoko Hasegawa
    • , Yukiko Hirabayashi
    • , Yasushi Honda
    • , Toshichika Iizumi
    • , Naoko Kumano
    • , Chan Park
    • , Zhihong Shen
    • , Kiyoshi Takahashi
    • , Makoto Tamura
    • , Masahiro Tanoue
    • , Koujiro Tsuchida
    • , Hiromune Yokoki
    • , Qian Zhou
    • , Taikan Oki
    •  & Yasuaki Hijioka
  • Letter |

    Future climate conditions threaten crops in sub-Saharan Africa. It is shown that most major sub-Saharan African crops have wild relatives that occur in regions better suited for future climate conditions, suggesting an opportunity for adaptation that does not require the adoption of new production systems.

    • Samuel Pironon
    • , Thomas R. Etherington
    • , James S. Borrell
    • , Nicola Kühn
    • , Marc Macias-Fauria
    • , Ian Ondo
    • , Carolina Tovar
    • , Paul Wilkin
    •  & Katherine J. Willis
  • Letter |

    The Indian Ocean is warming at an accelerated rate, and modelling experiments show teleconnections affecting the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). In a warming climate, reduced tropical Atlantic rainfall causes salinity changes strengthening the AMOC, while other factors weaken it.

    • Shineng Hu
    •  & Alexey V. Fedorov
  • Letter |

    Bananas are a staple food crop and important agricultural export for many countries. Here, it is shown that global banana yields have increased historically and will continue to increase in Africa but reduced yields are expected among the larger producers.

    • Varun Varma
    •  & Daniel P. Bebber