Attribution of observed changes in extreme temperatures to anthropogenic forcing using CMIP6 models

Mastawesha Misganaw Engdaw, Andrea K. Steiner, Gabriele C. Hegerl, Andrew P. Ballinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Global warming has clearly affected the occurrence of extreme events in recent years. Here, we assess changes in the frequency of temperature extremes and their causes, using percentile-based indices. Cold extremes are defined as temperatures below the 10th percentile of daily minimum (TN10) and maximum (TX10) temperatures while hot extremes exceed the 90th percentile of daily minimum (TN90) and maximum (TX90) temperatures. We analyze Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) for observed changes in the last four decades 1981-2020, for two extended seasons, boreal summer April–September (AMJJAS) and boreal winter October–March (ONDJFM), and evaluate results using several reanalysis data sets. For the attribution of causes we use CMIP6 climate model simulations, analyzing natural-only and anthropogenic-only forcings. We use an attribution method that accounts for climate modeling uncertainty in both amplitude and pattern of responses.

The observations show detectable changes in both cold and hot extreme temperatures. Hot extremes have increased in all regions and in both seasons while cold extremes have decreased over the past decades. Our attribution analysis revealed anthropogenic forcings are robustly detectable and the main drivers of observed changes in all indices for all regions, consistently in all data sets. Contributions from natural forcings are found small and detectable only in a few regions mainly for daytime cold extremes in ONDJFM. Anthropogenic forcing contributed to an increase of 3.4 days per decade in TN90 and of 2.7 days per decade in TX90, on average, at the global scale. Regionally, the anthropogenic contribution caused a range of decrease of 2–4.7 days per decade in TN10, 1.5–3.6 days per decade in TX10 while it caused an increase of 2.2–4.8 days per decade for TN90 and 2–3.3 days per decade in TX90. Anthropogenic-only warming in ONDJFM is slightly less than in AMJJAS.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100548
JournalWeather and Climate Extremes
Early online date4 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


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