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Volume 9 Issue 8, August 2019

Decadal variability linked to climate sensitivity

Climate change assessments often focus on maximum warming levels, with less attention paid to rate of change or variability about the trend. An investigation of the CMIP5 model ensemble shows that models with higher equilibrium climate sensitivity have greater temperature variability and also have a greater chance of super warming and hiatus periods

See Nijsse et al.

Image: Femke Nijsse using CMIP5 data. Cover Design: Tulsi Voralia.


  • Forests play an important role in carbon storage and climate regulation, as well as supporting biodiversity. Restoration of lost and degraded areas is firmly back on the agenda with a recent UN announcement.



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  • The publication of the IPCC Special Report on global warming of 1.5 oC paved the way for the rise of the political rhetoric of setting a fixed deadline for decisive actions on climate change. However, the dangers of such deadline rhetoric suggest the need for the IPCC to take responsibility for its report and openly challenge the credibility of such a deadline.

    • Shinichiro Asayama
    • Rob Bellamy
    • Mike Hulme
  • The Paris Agreement established a global goal on adaptation and invites parties to review the effectiveness of adaptation actions. However, the measurement of adaptation success remains elusive. Focusing on the capabilities of households and governments to pursue a range of adaptation futures provides a more robust foundation.

    • Lisa Dilling
    • Anjal Prakash
    • Kerry Bowman
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Books & Arts

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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Randomized control trials are a potentially useful research design for identifying the causal effects of capacity-building interventions in the context of environmental development. But new research suggests that short-term capacity-building projects do not increase the rate at which local water districts in Costa Rica adopt climate adaptation strategies.

    • Mark Lubell
    • Meredith T. Niles
    News & Views
  • Heatwaves increase in frequency and intensity with global warming. Research now shows that the sequence of a tropical cyclone followed by a heatwave may also occur more often, threatening power grids when air conditioning is needed most.

    • Ning Lin
    News & Views
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  • Lack of information is a barrier to climate change adaptation, and filling the information gap is a key component of adaptation projects. However, using a randomized controlled trial, this study finds no impact of a capacity-building workshop on community water management practices in Costa Rica.

    • Francisco Alpízar
    • María Bernedo Del Carpio
    • Ben S. Meiselman
  • To limit warming, a rapid reduction in coal use is needed. Early retirement of coal power plants by members of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which includes mainly wealthy countries that use little coal, would have a modest climate impact. Prospects for expanding the Alliance are examined.

    • Jessica Jewell
    • Vadim Vinichenko
    • Aleh Cherp
  • Projections of temperature often focus on maximum warming levels, with variability less often considered. Investigating decadal variability in models shows those with higher equilibrium climate sensitivity also have a higher chance of super warming, and hiatus periods.

    • Femke J. M. M. Nijsse
    • Peter M. Cox
    • Mark S. Williamson
  • Exposure to dangerous heat following a major tropical cyclone is possible along coastlines globally. In a warmer world, the population at risk from this combination of extreme weather could rise markedly.

    • T. Matthews
    • R. L. Wilby
    • C. Murphy
  • Bird numbers are declining globally, with sharp decreases in alpine and Arctic regions. Increases in primary productivity in the Arctic (known as greening) are linked to increased nest predation, highlighting how changing climate conditions can affect food web dynamics.

    • Rolf A. Ims
    • John-Andre Henden
    • Jane U. Jepsen
  • Observations of feeding interactions show that warming simplifies the structure of food webs in stream ecosystems. Simulations show that consumer diversity and changes in abundance drive this simplification and can reduce ecosystem stability.

    • Eoin J. O’Gorman
    • Owen L. Petchey
    • Guy Woodward
  • The length of the dry season over tropical forests is a determining factor of ecosystem health and drought risk. Hydroclimate and vegetation data show that dry season length has increased over the Congo rainforest since the 1980s, owing to both an earlier dry season onset and a delayed end.

    • Yan Jiang
    • Liming Zhou
    • Joanna Joiner
  • Physically connected habitats are required for terrestrial species to shift their liveable ranges as the tropics warm. The authors show that over half of tropical forest area is currently unable to provide such climate connectivity, and that loss of connectivity is accelerating with deforestation.

    • Rebecca A. Senior
    • Jane K. Hill
    • David P. Edwards
  • Island species are at risk as the climate changes. Island conifers are used as a model species and a combination of native and non-native occurrence data allows identification of realized, tolerable and fundamental niches; linking to island size provides an estimate of extinction risk.

    • Kyle C. Rosenblad
    • Daniel L. Perret
    • Dov F. Sax
  • Mass summertime fish die-offs across 359 Wisconsin lakes are attributed to high lake temperatures during periods of extreme heat, while infectious disease and winter conditions are shown to be poor predictors. Die-offs are projected to double by 2050 and quadruple by 2100 in north temperate lakes.

    • Aaron Till
    • Andrew L. Rypel
    • Samuel B. Fey
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