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Understanding the rapid summer warming and changes in temperature extremes since the mid-1990s over Western Europe

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Dong, B., Sutton, R. T. and Shaffrey, L. (2017) Understanding the rapid summer warming and changes in temperature extremes since the mid-1990s over Western Europe. Climate Dynamics, 48 (5). pp. 1537-1554. ISSN 0930-7575

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s00382-016-3158-8

Abstract/Summary

Analysis of observations indicates that there was a rapid increase in summer (June-August, JJA) mean surface air temperature (SAT) since the mid-1990s over Western Europe. Accompanying this rapid warming are significant increases in summer mean daily maximum temperature, daily minimum temperature, annual hottest day temperature and warmest night temperature, and an increase in frequency of summer days and tropical nights, while the change in the diurnal temperature range (DTR) is small. This study focuses on understanding causes of the rapid summer warming and associated temperature extreme changes. A set of experiments using the atmospheric component of the state-of-the-art HadGEM3 global climate model have been carried out to quantify relative roles of changes in sea surface temperature (SST)/sea ice extent (SIE), anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs), and anthropogenic aerosols (AAer). Results indicate that the model forced by changes in all forcings reproduces many of the observed changes since the mid-1990s over Western Europe. Changes in SST/SIE explain 62.2% ± 13.0% of the area averaged seasonal mean warming signal over Western Europe, with the remaining 37.8% ± 13.6% of the warming explained by the direct impact of changes in GHGs and AAer. Results further indicate that the direct impact of the reduction of AAer precursor emissions over Europe, mainly through aerosol-radiation interaction with additional contributions from aerosol-cloud interaction and coupled atmosphere-land surface feedbacks, is a key factor for increases in annual hottest day temperature and in frequency of summer days. It explains 45.5% ± 17.6% and 40.9% ± 18.4% of area averaged signals for these temperature extremes. The direct impact of the reduction of AAer precursor emissions over Europe acts to increase DTR locally, but the change in DTR is countered by the direct impact of GHGs forcing. In the next few decades, greenhouse gas concentrations will continue to rise and AAer precursor emissions over Europe and North America will continue to decline. Our results suggest that the changes in summer seasonal mean SAT and temperature extremes over Western Europe since the mid-1990s are most likely to be sustained or amplified in the near term, unless other factors intervene.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:65591
Additional Information:For Erratum (correction to figure 2), see http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00382-017-3590-4
Publisher:Springer

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