Joint Seminar: Detection and Attribution of Extreme Climate Changes in China

East Asian climate has been affected by both internal variability and external forcing agents, but whether the anthropogenic climate change is detectable remains inconclusive. In this seminar, major progresses in the studies of detection and attribution of extreme climate changes in China will be reviewed. The major findings are summarized below:

1.        Changes in precipitation characteristics directly affect society through their impacts on drought and floods, hydro-dams, and urban drainage systems. Global warming increases the water holding capacity of the atmosphere and thus the risk of heavy precipitation. Daily precipitation records from over 700 Chinese stations from1956 to 2005 are analyzed. The results show a significant shift from light to heavy precipitation over eastern China. An optimal fingerprinting analysis of simulations from 11 climate models driven by different combinations of historical anthropogenic (greenhouse gases, aerosols, land use, and ozone) and natural (volcanic and solar) forcings indicates that anthropogenic forcing on climate, including increases in greenhouse gases (GHGs), has had a detectable contribution to the observed shift toward heavy precipitation. The anthropogenic aerosols (AAs) partially offset the effect of the GHG forcing, resulting in a weaker shift toward heavy precipitation in simulations that include the AA forcing than in simulations with only the GHGf orcing. In addition to the thermodynamic mechanism, strengthened water vapor transport from the adjacent oceans and by midlatitude westerlies, resulting mainly from GHG-induced warming, also favors heavy precipitation over eastern China.

2.        The southeastern periphery of the Tibetan Plateau (SEPTP) was hit by an extraordinarily severe drought in the autumn of 2009. Whether the likelihood and strength of the severe droughts in the SEPTP, such as that in the autumn of 2009, have been affected by anthropogenic climate change remains unknown. We first identify the atmospheric circulation regime responsible for the SEPTP droughts and then explore how human-induced climate change has affected the severe droughts in the SEPTP. It is found that the drought conditions in the SEPTP have been driven by the Indian–Pacific warm pool (IPWP) sea surface temperature (SST) through strengthening of the local Hadley circulation and anomalously cyclonic motion over the South China Sea. Ensemble simulations of climate models demonstrate a robust increase in the dry and warm meteorological conditions seen during the 2009 SEPTP autumn drought due to anthropogenic global warming.

3. In the midsummer of 2013, Central and Eastern China (CEC) was hit by an extraordinary heat event, with the region experiencing the warmest July–August on record. To explore how human induced greenhouse gas emissions and natural internal variability contributed to this heat event, we compare observed July–August mean surface air temperature with that simulated by climate models. We find that both atmospheric natural variability and anthropogenic factors contributed to this heat event. This extreme warm midsummer was associated with a positive high-pressure anomaly that was closely related to the stochastic behavior of atmospheric circulation. Diagnosis of CMIP5 models and large ensembles of two atmospheric models indicates that human influence has substantially increased the chance of warm mid-summers such as 2013 in CEC.




15:15 h


Bundesstr. 53, room 022/023
Seminar Room 022/023, Ground Floor, Bundesstrasse 53, 20146 Hamburg, Hamburg


Tianjun Zhou, LASG, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences


Bjorn Stevens

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