Indicators of climate risk in the UK at different levels of warming

Arnell, Nigel W.; Freeman, Anna; Kay, Alison L. ORCID:; Rudd, Alison C. ORCID:; Lowe, Jason A.. 2021 Indicators of climate risk in the UK at different levels of warming. Environmental Research Communications, 3 (9), 095005. 24, pp.

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Assessments of the impacts of climate change are typically made using climate scenarios based on assumptions about future emissions of greenhouse gases, but policymakers and climate risk communicators are increasingly asking for information on impacts at different levels of warming. This paper provides this information for a set of indicators of climate risks in the UK for levels of warming up to 4 °C above pre-industrial levels. The results show substantial increases in climate risks at 2 °C, which is often inferred in the media to be a 'safe' level of climate change. In a 2 °C world, the chance of a heatwave is doubled, and the frequency of heat stress affecting people, crops and animals can be increased by a factor of five. Cooling degree days more than double, wildfire danger can increase by 40%–70%, the frequency of agricultural and water resources droughts doubles in England, and flood frequency in Wales increases by 50%. At 4 °C the increases in risk are considerably greater: heatwaves occur in virtually every year. The frequency of cold weather extremes reduces, but is not eliminated, with increasing warming. The rate of change in an indicator with warming varies across the UK. For temperature-based indicators this reflects variability in current climate, but for rainfall-based indicators reflects variations in the change in climate. Most indicators show a generally linear increase in risk with level of warming (although the change in risk from now is around 2.4 times higher in a 4 °C world than a 2 °C world because of warming experienced so far). However, some indicators—particularly relating to heat extremes—show a highly non-linear increase with level of warming. The range in change in indicator at a given level of warming is primarily caused by uncertainty in the estimated regional response of to increasing forcing.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2515-7620
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: heat extremes, wildfire, drought, flood, agricultural impacts, 4 degree world, 2 degree world
NORA Subject Terms: Meteorology and Climatology
Date made live: 29 Sep 2021 10:30 +0 (UTC)

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