Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Climate model


Human sleep is highly regulated by temperature. Might climate change-through increases in nighttime heat-disrupt sleep in the future? We conduct the inaugural investigation of the relationship between climatic anomalies, reports of insufficient sleep, and projected climate change. Using data from 765,000 U.S. survey respondents from 2002 to 2011, coupled with nighttime temperature data, we show that increases in nighttime temperatures amplify self-reported nights of insufficient sleep. We observe the largest effects during the summer and among both lower-income and elderly respondents. We combine our historical estimates with climate model projections and detail the potential sleep impacts of future climatic changes. Our study represents the largest ever investigation of the relationship between sleep and ambient temperature and provides the first evidence that climate change may disrupt human sleep.

Concepts: Climate, Weather, Sleep, Climate change, Change, Solar variation, Climate model, Global climate model


Modeling results incorporating several distinct urban expansion futures for the United States in 2100 show that, in the absence of any adaptive urban design, megapolitan expansion, alone and separate from greenhouse gas-induced forcing, can be expected to raise near-surface temperatures 1-2 °C not just at the scale of individual cities but over large regional swaths of the country. This warming is a significant fraction of the 21st century greenhouse gas-induced climate change simulated by global climate models. Using a suite of regional climate simulations, we assessed the efficacy of commonly proposed urban adaptation strategies, such as green, cool roof, and hybrid approaches, to ameliorate the warming. Our results quantify how judicious choices in urban planning and design cannot only counteract the climatological impacts of the urban expansion itself but also, can, in fact, even offset a significant percentage of future greenhouse warming over large scales. Our results also reveal tradeoffs among different adaptation options for some regions, showing the need for geographically appropriate strategies rather than one size fits all solutions.

Concepts: Earth, Climate, Weather, Climate change, 21st century, Global warming, Climate model, Global climate model


Increasingly frequent severe coral bleaching is among the greatest threats to coral reefs posed by climate change. Global climate models (GCMs) project great spatial variation in the timing of annual severe bleaching (ASB) conditions; a point at which reefs are certain to change and recovery will be limited. However, previous model-resolution projections (~1 × 1°) are too coarse to inform conservation planning. To meet the need for higher-resolution projections, we generated statistically downscaled projections (4-km resolution) for all coral reefs; these projections reveal high local-scale variation in ASB. Timing of ASB varies >10 years in 71 of the 87 countries and territories with >500 km(2) of reef area. Emissions scenario RCP4.5 represents lower emissions mid-century than will eventuate if pledges made following the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) become reality. These pledges do little to provide reefs with more time to adapt and acclimate prior to severe bleaching conditions occurring annually. RCP4.5 adds 11 years to the global average ASB timing when compared to RCP8.5; however, >75% of reefs still experience ASB before 2070 under RCP4.5. Coral reef futures clearly vary greatly among and within countries, indicating the projections warrant consideration in most reef areas during conservation and management planning.

Concepts: Algae, Coral, Coral reef, Climate, Ecosystem, Climate change, Climate model, Global climate model


The Paris Agreement calls for global warming to be limited to 1.5-2 °C. For the first time, this study investigates how different regional heatwave characteristics (intensity, frequency and duration) are projected to change relative to increasing global warming thresholds. Increases in heatwave days between 4-34 extra days per season are projected per °C of global warming. Some tropical regions could experience up to 120 extra heatwave days/season if 5 °C is reached. Increases in heatwave intensity are generally 0.5-1.5 °C above a given global warming threshold, however are higher over the Mediterranean and Central Asian regions. Between warming thresholds of 1.5 °C and 2.5 °C, the return intervals of intense heatwaves reduce by 2-3 fold. Heatwave duration is projected to increase by 2-10 days/°C, with larger changes over lower latitudes. Analysis of two climate model ensembles indicate that variation in the rate of heatwave changes is dependent on physical differences between different climate models, however internal climate variability bears considerable influence on the expected range of regional heatwave changes per warming threshold. The results of this study reiterate the potential for disastrous consequences associated with regional heatwaves if global mean warming is not limited to 2 degrees.

Concepts: Climate, Weather, Climate change, Solar variation, Global warming, Climate model, Latitude, Global climate model


It has been suggested that climate change impacts on the electric sector will account for the majority of global economic damages by the end of the current century and beyond [Rose S, et al. (2014) Understanding the Social Cost of Carbon: A Technical Assessment]. The empirical literature has shown significant increases in climate-driven impacts on overall consumption, yet has not focused on the cost implications of the increased intensity and frequency of extreme events driving peak demand, which is the highest load observed in a period. We use comprehensive, high-frequency data at the level of load balancing authorities to parameterize the relationship between average or peak electricity demand and temperature for a major economy. Using statistical models, we analyze multiyear data from 166 load balancing authorities in the United States. We couple the estimated temperature response functions for total daily consumption and daily peak load with 18 downscaled global climate models (GCMs) to simulate climate change-driven impacts on both outcomes. We show moderate and heterogeneous changes in consumption, with an average increase of 2.8% by end of century. The results of our peak load simulations, however, suggest significant increases in the intensity and frequency of peak events throughout the United States, assuming today’s technology and electricity market fundamentals. As the electricity grid is built to endure maximum load, our findings have significant implications for the construction of costly peak generating capacity, suggesting additional peak capacity costs of up to 180 billion dollars by the end of the century under business-as-usual.

Concepts: United States, Climate, Economics, Climate change, Mediterranean climate, Climate model, Global climate model, Electricity distribution


We have observed that the dry-season length (DSL) has increased over southern Amazonia since 1979, primarily owing to a delay of its ending dates (dry-season end, DSE), and is accompanied by a prolonged fire season. A poleward shift of the subtropical jet over South America and an increase of local convective inhibition energy in austral winter (June-August) seem to cause the delay of the DSE in austral spring (September-November). These changes cannot be simply linked to the variability of the tropical Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Although they show some resemblance to the effects of anthropogenic forcings reported in the literature, we cannot attribute them to this cause because of inadequate representation of these processes in the global climate models that were presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report. These models significantly underestimate the variability of the DSE and DSL and their controlling processes. Such biases imply that the future change of the DSE and DSL may be underestimated by the climate projections provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report models. Although it is not clear whether the observed increase of the DSL will continue in the future, were it to continue at half the rate of that observed, the long DSL and fire season that contributed to the 2005 drought would become the new norm by the late 21st century. The large uncertainty shown in this study highlights the need for a focused effort to better understand and simulate these changes over southern Amazonia.

Concepts: Earth, Climate, Weather, Atlantic Ocean, Climate change, Ocean, Climate model, Global climate model


Cooling during most of the past two millennia has been widely recognized and has been inferred to be the dominant global temperature trend of the past 11,700 years (the Holocene epoch). However, long-term cooling has been difficult to reconcile with global forcing, and climate models consistently simulate long-term warming. The divergence between simulations and reconstructions emerges primarily for northern mid-latitudes, for which pronounced cooling has been inferred from marine and coastal records using multiple approaches. Here we show that temperatures reconstructed from sub-fossil pollen from 642 sites across North America and Europe closely match simulations, and that long-term warming, not cooling, defined the Holocene until around 2,000 years ago. The reconstructions indicate that evidence of long-term cooling was limited to North Atlantic records. Early Holocene temperatures on the continents were more than two degrees Celsius below those of the past two millennia, consistent with the simulated effects of remnant ice sheets in the climate model Community Climate System Model 3 (CCSM3). CCSM3 simulates increases in ‘growing degree days’-a measure of the accumulated warmth above five degrees Celsius per year-of more than 300 kelvin days over the Holocene, consistent with inferences from the pollen data. It also simulates a decrease in mean summer temperatures of more than two degrees Celsius, which correlates with reconstructed marine trends and highlights the potential importance of the different subseasonal sensitivities of the records. Despite the differing trends, pollen- and marine-based reconstructions are correlated at millennial-to-centennial scales, probably in response to ice-sheet and meltwater dynamics, and to stochastic dynamics similar to the temperature variations produced by CCSM3. Although our results depend on a single source of palaeoclimatic data (pollen) and a single climate-model simulation, they reinforce the notion that climate models can adequately simulate climates for periods other than the present-day. They also demonstrate that amplified warming in recent decades increased temperatures above the mean of any century during the past 11,000 years.

Concepts: Climate, Temperature, Climate change, Simulation, Absolute zero, Climate model, Interglacial, Global climate model


The comparison of observed global mean surface air temperature (GMT) change to the mean change simulated by climate models has received much public and scientific attention. For a given global warming signal produced by a climate model ensemble, there exists an envelope of GMT values representing the range of possible unforced states of the climate system (the Envelope of Unforced Noise; EUN). Typically, the EUN is derived from climate models themselves, but climate models might not accurately simulate the correct characteristics of unforced GMT variability. Here, we simulate a new, empirical, EUN that is based on instrumental and reconstructed surface temperature records. We compare the forced GMT signal produced by climate models to observations while noting the range of GMT values provided by the empirical EUN. We find that the empirical EUN is wide enough so that the interdecadal variability in the rate of global warming over the 20(th) century does not necessarily require corresponding variability in the rate-of-increase of the forced signal. The empirical EUN also indicates that the reduced GMT warming over the past decade or so is still consistent with a middle emission scenario’s forced signal, but is likely inconsistent with the steepest emission scenario’s forced signal.

Concepts: Scientific method, Comparison, Climate, Temperature, Climate change, Comparisons, Climate model, Global climate model


In 1816, the coldest summer of the past two centuries was observed over northeastern North America and western Europe. This so-called Year Without a Summer (YWAS) has been widely attributed to the 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mt. Tambora and was concurrent with agricultural failures and famines worldwide. To understand the potential impacts of a similar future eruption, a thorough physical understanding of the YWAS is crucial. Climate model simulations of both the 1815 Tambora eruption and a hypothetical analogous future eruption are examined, the latter occurring in 2085 assuming a business-as-usual climate scenario. Here, we show that the 1815 eruption drove strong responses in both the ocean and cryosphere that were fundamental to driving the YWAS. Through modulation of ocean stratification and near-surface winds, global warming contributes to an amplified surface climate response. Limitations in using major volcanic eruptions as a constraint on cloud feedbacks are also found.

Concepts: United States, Climate, Climate change, Europe, Ocean, Global warming, Climate model, Year Without a Summer


Stomatal conductance links plant water use and carbon uptake, and is a critical process for the land surface component of climate models. However, stomatal conductance schemes commonly assume that all vegetation with the same photosynthetic pathway use identical plant water use strategies whereas observations indicate otherwise. Here, we implement a new stomatal scheme derived from optimal stomatal theory and constrained by a recent global synthesis of stomatal conductance measurements from 314 species, across 56 field sites. Using this new stomatal scheme, within a global climate model, subtantially increases the intensity of future heatwaves across Northern Eurasia. This indicates that our climate model has previously been under-predicting heatwave intensity. Our results have widespread implications for other climate models, many of which do not account for differences in stomatal water-use across different plant functional types, and hence, are also likely under projecting heatwave intensity in the future.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Plant, Climate, Climate change, Botany, Climate model, Global climate model,