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Projected drought risk in 1.5°C and 2°C warmer climates

Lehner, Flavio; Coats, Sloan John; Stocker, Thomas F.; Pendergrass, Angeline G.; Sanderson, Benjamin M.; Raible, Christoph C.; Smerdon, Jason E.

The large socioeconomic costs of droughts make them a crucial target for impact assessments of climate change scenarios. Using multiple drought metrics and a set of simulations with the Community Earth System Model targeting 1.5°C and 2°C above preindustrial global mean temperatures, we investigate changes in aridity and the risk of consecutive drought years. If warming is limited to 2°C, these simulations suggest little change in drought risk for the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains compared to present day. In the Mediterranean and central Europe, however, drought risk increases significantly for both 1.5°C and 2°C warming targets, and the additional 0.5°C of the 2°C climate leads to significantly higher drought risk. Our study suggests that limiting anthropogenic warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C, as aspired to by the Paris Climate Agreement, may have benefits for future drought risk but that such benefits may be regional and in some cases highly uncertain.

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Published In
Geophysical Research Letters
Publisher DOI
https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GL074117
Volume
44
Issue
14
Pages
7419 - 7428
Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
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