Seasonal cycles enhance disparities between low- and high-income countries in exposure to monthly temperature emergence with future warming

Luke James Harrington, David J. Frame, Ed Hawkins, Manoj Joshi

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A common proxy for the adaptive capacity of a community to the impacts of future climate change is the range of climate variability which they have experienced in the recent past. This study presents an interpretation of such a framework for monthly temperatures. Our results demonstrate that emergence into genuinely 'unfamiliar' climates will occur across nearly all months of the year for low-income nations by the second half of the 21st Century under an RCP8.5 warming scenario. However, high income countries commonly experience a large seasonal cycle, owing to their position in the middle latitudes: as a consequence, temperature emergence for transitional months translates only to more-frequent occurrences of heat historically associated with the summertime. Projections beyond 2050 also show low-income countries will experience 2-10 months per year warmer than the hottest month experienced in recent memory, while high-income countries will witness between 1-4 months per year hotter than any month previously experienced. While both results represent significant departures that may bring substantive societal impacts if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, they also demonstrate that spatial patterns of emergence will compound existing differences between high and low income populations, in terms of their capacity to adapt to unprecedented future temperatures.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114039
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number11
Early online date24 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2017

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