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Title: Trends in surface equivalent potential temperature: A more comprehensive metric for global warming and weather extremes
Trends in surface air temperature (SAT) are a common metric for global warming. Using observations and observationally driven models, we show that a more comprehensive metric for global warming and weather extremes is the trend in surface equivalent potential temperature (Thetae_sfc) since it also accounts for the increase in atmospheric humidity and latent energy. From 1980 to 2019, while SAT increased by 0.79 ° C , Thetae_sfc increased by 1.48 ° C globally and as much as 4 ° C in the tropics. The increase in water vapor is responsible for the factor of 2 difference between SAT and Thetae_sfc trends. Thetae_sfc increased more uniformly (than SAT) between the midlatitudes of the southern hemisphere and the northern hemisphere, revealing the global nature of the heating added by greenhouse gases (GHGs). Trends in heat extremes and extreme precipitation are correlated strongly with the global/tropical trends in Thetae_sfc. The tropical amplification of Thetae_sfc is as large as the arctic amplification of SAT, accounting for the observed global positive trends in deep convection and a 20% increase in heat extremes. With unchecked GHG emissions, while SAT warming can reach 4.8 ° C by 2100, the global mean Thetae_sfc can increase by as much more » as 12 ° C , with corresponding increases of 12 ° C (median) to 24 ° C (5% of grid points) in land surface temperature extremes, a 14- to 30-fold increase in frequency of heat extremes, a 40% increase in the energy available for tropical deep convection, and an up to 60% increase in extreme precipitation. « less
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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National Science Foundation
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