[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: 2014 was nominally the warmest year on record for both the globe and northern hemisphere based on historical records spanning the past one and a half centuries1,2. It was the latest in a recent run of record temperatures spanning the past decade and a half. Press accounts reported odds as low as one-in-650 million that the observed run of global temperature records would be expected to occur in the absence of human-caused global warming. Press reports notwithstanding, the question of how likely observed temperature records may have have been both with and without human influence is interesting in its own right. Here we attempt to address that question using a semi-empirical approach that combines the latest (CMIP53) climate model simulations with observations of global and hemispheric mean temperature. We find that individual record years and the observed runs of record-setting temperatures were extremely unlikely to have occurred in the absence of human-caused climate change, though not nearly as unlikely as press reports have suggested. These same record temperatures were, by contrast, quite likely to have occurred in the presence of anthropogenic climate forcing.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Possible changes in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) provide a key source of uncertainty regarding future climate change. Maps of temperature trends over the twentieth century show a conspicuous region of cooling in the northern Atlantic. Here we present multiple lines of evidence suggesting that this cooling may be due to a reduction in the AMOC over the twentieth century and particularly after 1970. Since 1990 the AMOC seems to have partly recovered. This time evolution is consistently suggested by an AMOC index based on sea surface temperatures, by the hemispheric temperature difference, by coral-based proxies and by oceanic measurements. We discuss a possible contribution of the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet to the slowdown. Using a multi-proxy temperature reconstruction for the AMOC index suggests that the AMOC weakness after 1975 is an unprecedented event in the past millennium (p > 0.99). Further melting of Greenland in the coming decades could contribute to further weakening of the AMOC.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Nature Climate Change
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The recent decade has seen an exceptional number of high-impact summer extremes in the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes. Many of these events were associated with anomalous jet stream circulation patterns characterized by persistent high-amplitude quasi-stationary Rossby waves. Two mechanisms have recently been proposed that could provoke such patterns: (i) a weakening of the zonal mean jets and (ii) an amplification of quasi-stationary waves by resonance between free and forced waves in midlatitude waveguides. Based upon spectral analysis of the midtroposphere wind field, we show that the persistent jet stream patterns were, in the first place, due to an amplification of quasi-stationary waves with zonal wave numbers 6-8. However, we also detect a weakening of the zonal mean jet during these events; thus both mechanisms appear to be important. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the anomalous circulation regimes lead to persistent surface weather conditions and therefore to midlatitude synchronization of extreme heat and rainfall events on monthly timescales. The recent cluster of resonance events has resulted in a statistically significant increase in the frequency of high-amplitude quasi-stationary waves of wave numbers 7 and 8 in July and August. We show that this is a robust finding that holds for different pressure levels and reanalysis products. We argue that recent rapid warming in the Arctic and associated changes in the zonal mean zonal wind have created favorable conditions for double jet formation in the extratropics, which promotes the development of resonant flow regimes.
Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Eurasian Arctic contains some of the largest rivers on Earth. Our synthesis of river monitoring data reveals that the average annual discharge of freshwater from the six largest Eurasian rivers (Yenisey, Lena, Ob', Kolyma, Pechora, S. Dvina) to the Arctic Ocean increased about 7% from 1936 through 1999. Correspondence between discharge from these Eurasian arctic rivers and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) suggests that variations in discharge are coupled to hemispheric climate patterns. Increases in discharge also correspond to increases in global, pan-Arctic, and Eurasian arctic temperatures. If the increasing river discharge is a response to global warming, the quantity of extra water delivered to the Arctic Ocean within the next century could approach that predicted by climate models to significantly impact the Atlantic thermohaline circulation.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Large uncertainty surrounds projections of global sea-level rise, resulting from uncertainty about future warming and an incomplete understanding of the complex processes and feedback mechanisms that cause sea level to rise. Consequently, existing models produce widely differing predictions of sea-level rise even for the same temperature scenario. Here we present results of a broad survey of 90 experts who were amongst the most active scientific publishers on the topic of sea level in recent years. They provided a probabilistic assessment of sea-level rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300 under two contrasting temperature scenarios. For the low scenario, which limits warming to <2 °C above pre-industrial temperature and has slowly falling temperature after AD 2050, the median ‘likely’ range provided by the experts is 0.4–0.6 m by AD 2100 and 0.6–1.0 m by AD 2300, suggesting a good chance to limit future sea-level rise to <1.0 m if climate mitigation measures are successfully implemented. In contrast, for the high warming scenario (4.5 °C by AD 2100 and 8 °C in AD 2300) the median likely ranges are 0.7–1.2 m by AD 2100 and 2.0–3.0 m by AD 2300, calling into question the future survival of some coastal cities and low-lying island nations.
Full-text · Article · Jan 2014 · Quaternary Science Reviews
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: With 80 % of world trade carried by sea, seaports provide crucial linkages in global supply-chains and are essential for the ability of all countries to access global markets. Seaports are likely to be affected directly and indirectly by climatic changes, with broader implications for international trade and development. Due to their coastal location, seaports are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events associated with increasing sea levels and tropical storm activity, as illustrated by hurricane “Sandy”. In view of their strategic role as part of the globalized trading system, adapting ports in different parts of the world to the impacts of climate change is of considerable importance. Reflecting the views of a diverse group of stakeholders with expertise in climate science, engineering, economics, policy, and port management, this essay highlights the climate change challenge for ports and suggests a way forward through the adoption of some initial measures. These include both “soft” and “hard” adaptations that may be spearheaded by individual port entities, but will require collaboration and support from a broad range of public and private sector stakeholders and from society at large. In particular, the essay highlights a need to shift to more holistic planning, investment and operation.