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

Concept: Global 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


Although severe thunderstorms are one of the primary causes of catastrophic loss in the United States, their response to elevated greenhouse forcing has remained a prominent source of uncertainty for climate change impacts assessment. We find that the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, Phase 5, global climate model ensemble indicates robust increases in the occurrence of severe thunderstorm environments over the eastern United States in response to further global warming. For spring and autumn, these robust increases emerge before mean global warming of 2 °C above the preindustrial baseline. We also find that days with high convective available potential energy (CAPE) and strong low-level wind shear increase in occurrence, suggesting an increasing likelihood of atmospheric conditions that contribute to the most severe events, including tornadoes. In contrast, whereas expected decreases in mean wind shear have been used to argue for a negative influence of global warming on severe thunderstorms, we find that decreases in shear are in fact concentrated in days with low CAPE and therefore do not decrease the total occurrence of severe environments. Further, we find that the shift toward high CAPE is most concentrated in days with low convective inhibition, increasing the occurrence of high-CAPE/low-convective inhibition days. The fact that the projected increases in severe environments are robust across a suite of climate models, emerge in response to relatively moderate global warming, and result from robust physical changes suggests that continued increases in greenhouse forcing are likely to increase severe thunderstorm occurrence, thereby increasing the risk of thunderstorm-related damage.

Concepts: Precipitation, Climate, Weather, Climate change, Thunderstorm, Global climate model, Severe weather, Wind shear


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


As lower-mass stars often host multiple rocky planets, gravitational interactions among planets can have significant effects on climate and habitability over long timescales. Here we explore a specific case, Kepler-62f (Borucki et al., 2013 ), a potentially habitable planet in a five-planet system with a K2V host star. N-body integrations reveal the stable range of initial eccentricities for Kepler-62f is 0.00 ≤ e ≤ 0.32, absent the effect of additional, undetected planets. We simulate the tidal evolution of Kepler-62f in this range and find that, for certain assumptions, the planet can be locked in a synchronous rotation state. Simulations using the 3-D Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD) Generic global climate model (GCM) indicate that the surface habitability of this planet is sensitive to orbital configuration. With 3 bar of CO2 in its atmosphere, we find that Kepler-62f would only be warm enough for surface liquid water at the upper limit of this eccentricity range, providing it has a high planetary obliquity (between 60° and 90°). A climate similar to that of modern-day Earth is possible for the entire range of stable eccentricities if atmospheric CO2 is increased to 5 bar levels. In a low-CO2 case (Earth-like levels), simulations with version 4 of the Community Climate System Model (CCSM4) GCM and LMD Generic GCM indicate that increases in planetary obliquity and orbital eccentricity coupled with an orbital configuration that places the summer solstice at or near pericenter permit regions of the planet with above-freezing surface temperatures. This may melt ice sheets formed during colder seasons. If Kepler-62f is synchronously rotating and has an ocean, CO2 levels above 3 bar would be required to distribute enough heat to the nightside of the planet to avoid atmospheric freeze-out and permit a large enough region of open water at the planet’s substellar point to remain stable. Overall, we find multiple plausible combinations of orbital and atmospheric properties that permit surface liquid water on Kepler-62f. Key Words: Extrasolar planets-Habitability-Planetary environments. Astrobiology 16, xxx-xxx.

Concepts: Earth, Climate, Planet, Mars, Mercury, Atmosphere, Jupiter, 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


Forest loss in hotspots around the world impacts not only local climate where loss occurs, but also influences climate and vegetation in remote parts of the globe through ecoclimate teleconnections. The magnitude and mechanism of remote impacts likely depends on the location and distribution of forest loss hotspots, but the nature of these dependencies has not been investigated. We use global climate model simulations to estimate the distribution of ecologically-relevant climate changes resulting from forest loss in two hotspot regions: western North America (wNA), which is experiencing accelerated dieoff, and the Amazon basin, which is subject to high rates of deforestation. The remote climatic and ecological net effects of simultaneous forest loss in both regions differed from the combined effects of loss from the two regions simulated separately, as evident in three impacted areas. Eastern South American Gross Primary Productivity (GPP) increased due to changes in seasonal rainfall associated with Amazon forest loss and changes in temperature related to wNA forest loss. Eurasia’s GPP declined with wNA forest loss due to cooling temperatures increasing soil ice volume. Southeastern North American productivity increased with simultaneous forest loss, but declined with only wNA forest loss due to changes in VPD. Our results illustrate the need for a new generation of local-to-global scale analyses to identify potential ecoclimate teleconnections, their underlying mechanisms, and most importantly, their synergistic interactions, to predict the responses to increasing forest loss under future land use change and climate change.

Concepts: Climate, Weather, Climate change, Amazon River, North America, South America, Amazon Basin, Global climate model


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


Clouds substantially affect Earth’s energy budget by reflecting solar radiation back to space and by restricting emission of thermal radiation to space. They are perhaps the largest uncertainty in our understanding of climate change, owing to disagreement among climate models and observational datasets over what cloud changes have occurred during recent decades and will occur in response to global warming. This is because observational systems originally designed for monitoring weather have lacked sufficient stability to detect cloud changes reliably over decades unless they have been corrected to remove artefacts. Here we show that several independent, empirically corrected satellite records exhibit large-scale patterns of cloud change between the 1980s and the 2000s that are similar to those produced by model simulations of climate with recent historical external radiative forcing. Observed and simulated cloud change patterns are consistent with poleward retreat of mid-latitude storm tracks, expansion of subtropical dry zones, and increasing height of the highest cloud tops at all latitudes. The primary drivers of these cloud changes appear to be increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and a recovery from volcanic radiative cooling. These results indicate that the cloud changes most consistently predicted by global climate models are currently occurring in nature.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Precipitation, Climate, Weather, Climate change, Solar variation, Global climate model