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Keeping global warming within 1.5 degrees C constrains emergence of aridification

Journal article
Authors C. E. Park
S. J. Jeong
M. Joshi
T. J. Osborn
C. H. Ho
S. L. Piao
Deliang Chen
J. G. Liu
H. Yang
H. Park
B. M. Kim
S. Feng
Published in Nature Climate Change
Volume 8
Issue 1
Pages 70-+
ISSN 1758-678X
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 70-+
Language en
Keywords earth system model, climate-change, water, expansion, drylands, drought, future, forest
Subject categories Climate Research


Aridity-the ratio of atmospheric water supply (precipitation; P) to demand (potential evapotranspiration; PET)-is projected to decrease (that is, areas will become drier) as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change, exacerbating land degradation and desertification(1-6). However, the timing of significant aridification relative to natural variability-defined here as the time of emergence for aridification (ToEA)-is unknown, despite its importance in designing and implementing mitigation policies(7-10). Here we estimate ToEA from projections of 27 global climate models (GCMs) under representative concentration pathways (RCPs) RCP4.5 and RCP8.5, and in doing so, identify where emergence occurs before global mean warming reaches 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C above the pre-industrial level. On the basis of the ensemble median ToEA for each grid cell, aridification emerges over 32% (RCP4.5) and 24% (RCP8.5) of the total land surface before the ensemble median of global mean temperature change reaches 2 degrees C in each scenario. Moreover, ToEA is avoided in about two-thirds of the above regions if the maximum global warming level is limited to 1.5 degrees C. Early action for accomplishing the 1.5 degrees C temperature goal can therefore markedly reduce the likelihood that large regions will face substantial aridification and related impacts.

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