Rapid Warming in Summer Wet Bulb Globe Temperature in China with Human-Induced Climate Change

Published in Journal of Climate, 2020

ABSTRACT: On the basis of a newly developed observational dataset and a suite of climate model simulations, we evaluate changes in summer mean wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) in China from 1961 through 2080. We show that summer mean WBGT has increased almost everywhere across China since 1961 as a result of human-induced climate change. Consequently, hot summers as measured by summer mean WBGT are be- coming more frequent and more conducive to heat stress. Hot summers like the hottest on record during 1961–2015 in western or eastern China are now expected occur once every 3–4 years. These hot WBGT summers have become more than 140 times as likely in eastern China in the present decade (2010s) as in the 1961–90 baseline period and more than 1000 times as likely in western China. The substantially larger in- fluence in western China is associated with its stronger warming signal, which is likely due to the high Bowen ratio of sensible to latent heat fluxes of dry soils and increases in absorbed solar radiation from the decline in mountain snow cover extent. Observation-constrained projections of future summer mean WBGT under the RCP8.5 emissions scenario indicate that, by the 2040s, almost every summer in China will be at least as hot as the hottest summer in the historical record, and by the 2060s it will be common (on average, every other year) for summers to be as much as 3.08C hotter than the historical record, pointing to potentially large increases in the likelihood of human heat stress and to a massive adaption challenge.

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Li, Chao, Ying Sun, Francis Zwiers, Dongqian Wang, Xuebin Zhang, Gang Chen and Hui Wu, 2020: Rapid Warming in Summer Wet Bulb Globe Temperature in China with Human-Induced Climate Change, Journal of Climate, 33, 5697--5711, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0492.1.