Doubling of US Population Exposure to Climate Extremes by 2050


Batibeniz F., Ashfaq M., Diffenbaugh N. S. , Key K., Evans K. J. , Turuncoglu U. U. , ...More

EARTHS FUTURE, vol.8, no.4, 2020 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 8 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1029/2019ef001421
  • Title of Journal : EARTHS FUTURE

Abstract

We quantify historical and projected trends in the population exposure to climate extremes as measured by the United States National Center for Environmental Information Climate Extremes Index (CEI). Based on the analyses of the historical observations, we find that the U.S. has already experienced a rise in the occurrence of aggregated extremes in recent decades, consistent with the climate response to historical increases in radiative forcing. Additionally, we find that exposure can be expected to intensify under the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5, with all counties permanently exceeding the baseline variability in the occurrence of extreme hot days, warm nights, and drought conditions by 2050. As a result, every county in the U.S. is projected to permanently exceed the historical CEI variability (as measured by one standard deviation during the 1981-2005 period). Based on the current population distribution, this unprecedented change implies a yearly exposure to extreme conditions for one in every three people. We find that the increasing trend in exposure to the aggregated extremes is already detectable over much of the U.S., and particularly in the central and eastern U.S. The high correspondence between the pattern of trends in our simulations and observations increases confidence in the projected amplification of population exposure to unprecedented combinations of extreme climate conditions, should greenhouse gas concentrations continue to escalate along their current trajectory.