Nav: Home

Half a degree less warming can avoid precipitation extremes

August 08, 2018

Just half a degree Celsius could make a major difference when it comes to global warming, according to a new paper published by a collaborative research team based in China.

The study, which appears in Nature Communications on August 8, 2018, confirms the significance of the incremental global warming limits articulated by the Paris Agreement, an accord structured within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. A total of 175 parties (174 countries and the European Union)* agreed to work to stop global warming from increasing more than 2°C, and every effort is to be made to limit the increase to 1.5°C and prevent the last half of a degree of warming. The half a degree Celsius is so significant that it could be the barrier preventing extreme precipitation events, according to Tianjun Zhou, the corresponding author on the paper.

Zhou is a senior scientist at the State Key Laboratory of Numerical Modeling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is also a professor at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"As the climate warms, both the mean state and the variability of extreme precipitation are projected to increase, inducing more intense and dangerous extreme events," Zhou said. "Limiting global warming to 1.5°C, compared to 2°C, would reduce areal and population exposures to once-in-10-year or once-in-20-year extreme precipitation events by approximately 20 to 40 percent."

Zhou and his team combined CMIP5, an archive of comprehensive climate models, with socio-economic projections to investigate future climate changes and the accompanying impacts. The researchers specifically examined extreme precipitation events in the global monsoon region, which sprawls north and south from the Earth's equator and includes nearly two-thirds of the world population. This region is more impacted by extreme precipitation than any other land mass on Earth.

The scientists found that by reducing the global warming limit by 0.5°C, a significant number of extreme precipitation events and their impacts could be avoided.

"Realizing the 1.5°C low warming target proposed by the Paris Agreement could robustly benefit the populous global monsoon region, in terms of lower exposure to precipitation extremes," Zhou said, referring to the severe floods, landslides and debris flows that can result from excessive rain. "[Our results] are robust across climate models, different definitions of dangerous events, future greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, and population scenarios."

The researchers will continue to study the physical processes of how 0.5°C less warming affects dangerous precipitation extremes. They're also calling others to attention and action in regions that are the most sensitive to the 0.5°C additional warming.

"Among the global land monsoon regions, the most affected sub-regions, the South African and South Asian monsoon regions, are already among the most vulnerable to adverse impacts of climate change," Zhou said. "Our results call attention to more effective adaption activities in these sensitivity regions."
-end-
*The United States has announced it will withdraw from the Paris Agreement by 2020.

Please contact Prof. Tianjun Zhou for a PDF copy of the paper. Prof. Zhou is available for email interview.

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the International Partnership Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Other contributors include Wenxia Zhang, Liwei Zou, Lixia Zhang, and Xiaolong Chen, all from the State Key Laboratory of Numerical Modeling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Wenxia Zhang also has an affiliation at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Lixia Zhang is affiliated with the Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters at the Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology.

Published article:

Wenxia Zhang, Tianjun Zhou*, Liwei Zou, Lixia Zhang, and Xiaolong Chen: Reduced exposure to extreme precipitation from 0.5°C less warming in global land monsoon regions. Nature Communications. 2018. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05633-3.

Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".