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Intensified drought and heatwaves (Nature Climate Change Volume 8 Issue 5, May 2018)

Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns lead to heat waves and droughts occurring with greater frequency and intensity. This issue includes a collection of original research documenting how droughts and heatwaves, as well as their impacts on both natural and human systems, may change with anthropogenic warming.

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.

From the current issue:Nature- Climate Change Volume 8 Issue 5, May 2018

  • A hot future for European droughts . 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.
  • Africa and the Paris Agreement. 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.
  • Deforestation intensifies hot days. 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.
  • Running dry
  • Record-breaking climate extremes in Africa under stabilized 1.5 °C and 2 °C global warming scenarios. The record hot year of 2015 in Africa had devastating impacts. The likelihood of future annual temperature extremes over Africa exceeding those of 2015 are 91% and 100% in 1.5 °C and 2 °C worlds, respectively, stressing the benefits of limiting future anthropogenic warming.
  • Anthropogenic warming exacerbates European soil moisture droughts. Severe drought plagued Europe in 2003, amplifying heatwave conditions that killed more than 30,000 people. Assuming business as usual, such soil moisture deficits will become twice as frequent in the future and affect up to two-thirds of the European population.