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Projecting exposure to extreme climate impact events across six event categories and three spatial scales

Global warming changes the frequency, intensity, and spatial distribution of extreme events. This article analyses computer simulations of river floods, tropical cyclones, crop failure, wildfires, droughts, and heatwaves under past, present‐day, and potential future climate conditions.

Journal Article

Published on 2 February 2021

Author(s): Stefan Lange, Jan Volkholz, Tobias Geiger, Fang Zhao, Iliusi Vega, Ted Veldkamp, Christopher P. O. Reyer, Lila Warszawski, Veronika Huber, Jonas Jagermeyr, Jacob Schwebe, David N. Bresch, Matthias Buchner , Jinfeng Chang, Philippe Ciais, Marie Dury, Kerry Emanuel , Christian Folberth, Dieter Gerten, Simon N. Gosling, Manolis Grillakis, Naota Hanasaki , Alexandra-Jane Henrot, Thomas Hickler, Yasushi Honda, Akihiko Ito, Nikolay Khabarov , Aristeidis Koutroulis, Wengfeng Liu, Christoph Muller, Kazuya Nishina, Sebastian Ostberg, Hannes Muller Schmeid, Sonia I. Seneviratne, Tobias Stacke , Jorg Steinkamp, Wim Thiery, Yoshihide Wada, Sven Willner, Yong Yang, Minoru Yoshikawa, Chao Yue, Katja Frieler

Abstract

The extent and impact of climate-related extreme events depend on the underlying meteorological, hydrological, or climatological drivers as well as on human factors such as land use or population density. Here we quantify the pure effect of historical and future climate change on the exposure of land and population to extreme climate impact events using an unprecedentedly large ensemble of harmonized climate impact simulations from the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project phase 2b. Our results indicate that global warming has already more than doubled both the global land area and the global population annually exposed to all six categories of extreme events considered: river floods, tropical cyclones, crop failure, wildfires, droughts, and heatwaves. Global warming of 2°C relative to preindustrial conditions is projected to lead to a more than fivefold increase in cross-category aggregate exposure globally. Changes in exposure are unevenly distributed, with tropical and subtropical regions facing larger increases than higher latitudes. The largest increases in overall exposure are projected for the population of South Asia.

Published in Earth’s Future, AGU