Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

Multidimensional risk in a nonstationary climate: Joint probability of increasingly severe warm and dry conditions

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Science Advances  28 Nov 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 11, eaau3487
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3487


We present a framework for quantifying the spatial and temporal co-occurrence of climate stresses in a nonstationary climate. We find that, globally, anthropogenic climate forcing has doubled the joint probability of years that are both warm and dry in the same location (relative to the 1961–1990 baseline). In addition, the joint probability that key crop and pasture regions simultaneously experience severely warm conditions in conjunction with dry years has also increased, including high statistical confidence that human influence has increased the probability of previously unprecedented co-occurring combinations. Further, we find that ambitious emissions mitigation, such as that in the United Nations Paris Agreement, substantially curbs increases in the probability that extremely hot years co-occur with low precipitation simultaneously in multiple regions. Our methodology can be applied to other climate variables, providing critical insight for a number of sectors that are accustomed to deploying resources based on historical probabilities.

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