Southern Hemisphere subtropical drying as a transient response to warming

J. M. Kale Sniderman, Josephine R. Brown, Jon D. Woodhead, Andrew D. King, Nathan P. Gillett, Katarzyna B. Tokarska, Katja Lorbacher, John Hellstrom, Russell N. Drysdale, Malte Meinshausen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate projections1,2,3 and observations over recent decades4,5 indicate that precipitation in subtropical latitudes declines in response to anthropogenic warming, with significant implications for food production and population sustainability. However, this conclusion is derived from emissions scenarios with rapidly increasing radiative forcing to the year 21001,2, which may represent very different conditions from both past and future ‘equilibrium’ warmer climates. Here, we examine multi-century future climate simulations and show that in the Southern Hemisphere subtropical drying ceases soon after global temperature stabilizes. Our results suggest that twenty-first century Southern Hemisphere subtropical drying is not a feature of warm climates per se, but is primarily a response to rapidly rising forcing and global temperatures, as tropical sea-surface temperatures rise more than southern subtropical sea-surface temperatures under transient warming. Subtropical drying may therefore be a temporary response to rapid warming: as greenhouse gas concentrations and global temperatures stabilize, Southern Hemisphere subtropical regions may experience positive precipitation trends.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Climate Change
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Southern Hemisphere subtropical drying as a transient response to warming'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this