Temperature and precipitation extremes under current, 1.5°C and 2.0°C global warming above pre-industrial levels over Botswana, and implications for climate change vulnerability

Tiro Nkemelang, Mark New, Modathir Abdalla Hassan Zaroug

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Climate extremes are widely projected to become more severe as the global climate continues to warm due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. These extremes often cause the most severe impacts on society. Therefore, the extent to which the extremes might change at regional level as the global climate warms from current levels to proposed policy targets of 1.5 and 2.0 °C above preindustrial levels need to be understood to allow for better preparedness and informed policy formulation. This paper analysed projected changes in temperature and precipitation extremes over Botswana at 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 °C warming, a country highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Projected changes in temperature extremes are significantly different from each other at the three levels of global warming. Specifically, at 2.0 °C global warming, relative to preindustrial, for the ensemble median: (a) country average Warm Spell Duration Index (WSDI) ensemble median increases ensemble range by 80, 65, 62 days per year across different climatic zones, approximately three times the change at 1.0 °C and twice the change at 1.5 °C; (b) cold night (TN10P) and cold day (TX10P) frequencies decrease by 12 and 9 days per year across all regions, respectively, while hot nights (TN90P) and hot days (TX90P) both increase by 8-9 days across all regions. Projected changes in drought related indices also distinct at different warming levels. Specifically: (a) projected mean annual precipitation decreases across the country by 5-12% at 2°C, 3-8% at 1.5 °C and 2-7% at 1.0 °C; (b) the dry spell length (ALTCDD) increases by 15-19 days across the three climatic zones at 2.0 °C, about three (two) times as much as the increase at 1.0 (1.5) °C. Ensemble mean projections are for increases in heavy rainfall indices, but not statistically significant. The implications of these changes for key socio-economic sectors are explored, and reveal progressively severe impacts, and consequent adaptation challenges for Botswana as the global climate warms from its present temperature of 1.0 °C above preindustrial levels to 1.5, and then 2.0 °C.
Original languageEnglish
Article number065016
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Early online date8 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2018

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