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  1. Abstract

    Simultaneous heatwaves affecting multiple regions (referred to as concurrent heatwaves) pose compounding threats to various natural and societal systems, including global food chains, emergency response systems, and reinsurance industries. While anthropogenic climate change is increasing heatwave risks across most regions, the interactions between warming and circulation changes that yield concurrent heatwaves remain understudied. Here, we quantify historical (1979–2019) trends in concurrent heatwaves during the warm season [May–September (MJJAS)] across the Northern Hemisphere mid- to high latitudes. We find a significant increase of ∼46% in the mean spatial extent of concurrent heatwaves and ∼17% increase in their maximum intensity, and an approximately sixfold increase in their frequency. Using self-organizing maps, we identify large-scale circulation patterns (300 hPa) associated with specific concurrent heatwave configurations across Northern Hemisphere regions. We show that observed changes in the frequency of specific circulation patterns preferentially increase the risk of concurrent heatwaves across particular regions. Patterns linking concurrent heatwaves across eastern North America, eastern and northern Europe, parts of Asia, and the Barents and Kara Seas show the largest increases in frequency (∼5.9 additional days per decade). We also quantify the relative contributions of circulation pattern changes and warming to overall observed concurrent heatwave day frequencymore »trends. While warming has a predominant and positive influence on increasing concurrent heatwave frequency, circulation pattern changes have a varying influence and account for up to 0.8 additional concurrent heatwave days per decade. Identifying regions with an elevated risk of concurrent heatwaves and understanding their drivers is indispensable for evaluating projected climate risks on interconnected societal systems and fostering regional preparedness in a changing climate.

    Significance Statement

    Heatwaves pose a major threat to human health, ecosystems, and human systems. Simultaneous heatwaves affecting multiple regions can exacerbate such threats. For example, multiple food-producing regions simultaneously undergoing heat-related crop damage could drive global food shortages. We assess recent changes in the occurrence of simultaneous large heatwaves. Such simultaneous heatwaves are 7 times more likely now than 40 years ago. They are also hotter and affect a larger area. Their increasing occurrence is mainly driven by warming baseline temperatures due to global heating, but changes in weather patterns contribute to disproportionate increases over parts of Europe, the eastern United States, and Asia. Better understanding the drivers of weather pattern changes is therefore important for understanding future concurrent heatwave characteristics and their impacts.

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  2. Abstract Increases in climate hazards and their impacts mark one of the major challenges of climate change. Situations in which hazards occur close enough to one another to result in amplified impacts, because systems are insufficiently resilient or because hazards themselves are made more severe, are of special concern. We consider projected changes in such compounding hazards using the Max Planck Institute Grand Ensemble under a moderate (RCP4.5) emissions scenario, which produces warming of about 2.25 °C between pre-industrial (1851–1880) and 2100. We find that extreme heat events occurring on three or more consecutive days increase in frequency by 100%–300%, and consecutive extreme precipitation events increase in most regions, nearly doubling for some. The chance of concurrent heat and drought leading to simultaneous maize failures in three or more breadbasket regions approximately doubles, while interannual wet-dry oscillations become at least 20% more likely across much of the subtropics. Our results highlight the importance of taking compounding climate extremes into account when looking at possible tipping points of socio-environmental systems.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  3. In the Northern Hemisphere, recurrence of transient Rossby wave packets over periods of days to weeks, termed RRWPs, may repeatedly create similar weather conditions. This recurrence leads to persistent surface anomalies and high-impact weather events. Here, we demonstrate the significance of RRWPs for persistent heatwaves in the Southern Hemisphere (SH). We investigate the relationship between RRWPs, atmospheric blocking, and amplified quasi-stationary Rossby waves with two cases of heatwaves in Southeast Australia (SEA) in 2004 and 2009. This region has seen extraordinary heatwaves in recent years. We also investigate the importance of transient systems such as RRWPs and two other persistent dynamical drivers: atmospheric blocks and quasi-resonant amplification (QRA). We further explore the link between RRWPs, blocks, and QRA in the SH using the ERA-I reanalysis dataset (1979–2018). We find that QRA and RRWPs are strongly associated: 40% of QRA days feature RRWPs, and QRA events are 13 times more likely to occur with an RRWPs event than without it. Furthermore, days with QRA and RRWPs show high correlations in the composite mean fields of upper-level flows, indicating that both features have a similar hemispheric flow configuration. Blocking frequencies for QRA and RRWP conditions both increase over the south Pacific Oceanmore »but differ substantially over parts of the south Atlantic and Indian Ocean.« less
  4. Abstract During the summer, the Midwest United States, which covers the main US corn belt, has a net loss of surface water as evapotranspiration exceeds precipitation. The net moisture gain into the atmosphere is transported out of the region to northern high latitudes through transient eddy moisture fluxes. How this process may change in the future is not entirely clear despite the fact that the corn belt region is responsible for a large portion of the global supply of corn and soybeans. We find that increased CO2 and the associated warming increases evapotranspiration. while precipitation reduces in the region leading to further reduction in precipitation minus evaporation (P-E) in the future. At the same time, the poleward transient moisture flux increases leading to enhanced atmospheric moistures export from the corn belt region. However, storm track intensity is generally weakened in the summer due to reduced north-south temperature gradient associated with amplified warming in the midlatitudes. The intensified transient eddy moisture transport as storm track weakens can be reconciled by the stronger mean moisture gradient in the future. This is found to be caused by the climatological low-level jet transporting more moisture into the Great Plains region due to the thermodynamicmore »mechanism under warmer conditions. Our results, for the first time, show that in the future, the US Midwest corn belt will experience more hydrological stress due to intensified transient eddy moisture export leading to drier soils in the region.« less
  5. Abstract The frequency of heat waves (defined as daily temperature exceeding the local 90th percentile for at least three consecutive days) during summer in the United States is examined for daily maximum and minimum temperature and maximum apparent temperature, in recent observations and in 10 CMIP5 models for recent past and future. The annual average percentage of days participating in a heat wave varied between approximately 2% and 10% in observations and in the model’s historical simulations during 1979–2005. Applying today’s temperature thresholds to future projections, heat-wave frequencies rise to more than 20% by 2035–40. However, given the models’ slight overestimation of frequencies and positive trend rates during 1979–2005, these projected heat-wave frequencies should be regarded cautiously. The models’ overestimations may be associated with their higher daily autocorrelation than is found in observations. Heat-wave frequencies defined using apparent temperature, reflecting both temperature and atmospheric moisture, are projected to increase at a slightly (and statistically significantly) faster rate than for temperature alone. Analyses show little or no changes in the day-to-day variability or persistence (autocorrelation) of extreme temperature between recent past and future, indicating that the future heat-wave frequency will be due predominantly to increases in standardized (using historical period statistics)more »mean temperature and moisture content, adjusted by the local climatological daily autocorrelation. Using nonparametric methods, the average level and spatial pattern of future heat-wave frequency is shown to be approximately predictable on the basis of only projected mean temperature increases and local autocorrelation. These model-projected changes, even if only approximate, would impact infrastructure, ecology, and human well-being.« less