Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

Unprecedented climate events: Historical changes, aspirational targets, and national commitments

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Science Advances  14 Feb 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 2, eaao3354
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao3354

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The United Nations Paris Agreement creates a specific need to compare consequences of cumulative emissions for pledged national commitments and aspirational targets of 1.5° to 2°C global warming. We find that humans have already increased the probability of historically unprecedented hot, warm, wet, and dry extremes, including over 50 to 90% of North America, Europe, and East Asia. Emissions consistent with national commitments are likely to cause substantial and widespread additional increases, including more than fivefold for warmest night over ~50% of Europe and >25% of East Asia and more than threefold for wettest days over >35% of North America, Europe, and East Asia. In contrast, meeting aspirational targets to keep global warming below 2°C reduces the area experiencing more than threefold increases to <10% of most regions studied. However, large areas—including >90% of North America, Europe, East Asia, and much of the tropics—still exhibit sizable increases in the probability of record-setting hot, wet, and/or dry events.

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