Intensification of hot extremes in the United States

Authors

  • Noah S. Diffenbaugh,

    1. Woods Institute for the Environment and Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
    2. Purdue Climate Change Research Center and Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
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  • Moetasim Ashfaq

    1. Woods Institute for the Environment and Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
    2. Purdue Climate Change Research Center and Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
    3. Now at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA.
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Abstract

[1] Governments are currently considering policies that will limit greenhouse gas concentrations, including negotiation of an international treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol. Existing mitigation targets have arisen primarily from political negotiations, and the ability of such policies to avoid dangerous impacts is still uncertain. Using a large suite of climate model experiments, we find that substantial intensification of hot extremes could occur within the next 3 decades, below the 2°C global warming target currently being considered by policy makers. We also find that the intensification of hot extremes is associated with a shift towards more anticyclonic atmospheric circulation during the warm season, along with warm-season drying over much of the U.S. The possibility that intensification of hot extremes could result from relatively small increases in greenhouse gas concentrations suggests that constraining global warming to 2°C may not be sufficient to avoid dangerous climate change.

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