Bioclimatic change as a function of global warming from CMIP6 climate projections

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Abstract

Climate change is predicted to lead to major changes in terrestrial ecosystems. However, substantial differences in climate model projections for given scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions continue to limit detailed assessment. Here we show, using a traditional Köppen-Geiger bioclimate classification system, that the latest CMIP6 Earth system models actually agree well on the fraction of the global land surface that would undergo a major change per degree of global warming. Data from "historical"and "SSP585"model runs are used to create bioclimate maps at various degrees of global warming and to investigate the performance of the multi-model ensemble mean when classifying climate data into discrete categories. Using a streamlined Köppen-Geiger scheme with 13 classifications, global bioclimate classification maps at 2 and 4K of global warming above a 1901-1931 reference period are presented. These projections show large shifts in bioclimate distribution, with an almost exclusive change from colder, wetter bioclimates to hotter, drier ones. Historical model run performance is assessed and examined by comparison with the bioclimatic classifications derived from the observed climate over the same time period. The fraction (f) of the land experiencing a change in its bioclimatic class as a function of global warming (ΔT) is estimated by combining the results from the individual models. Despite the discrete nature of the bioclimatic classification scheme, we find only a weakly saturating dependence of this fraction on global warming fCombining double low line1-e-0.14ΔT, which implies about 13% of land experiencing a major change in climate per 1K increase in global mean temperature between the global warming levels of 1 and 3K. Therefore, we estimate that stabilizing the climate at 1.5K rather than 2K of global warming would save over 7.5 million square kilometres of land from a major bioclimatic change.

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Sparey, M., Cox, P., & Williamson, M. S. (2023). Bioclimatic change as a function of global warming from CMIP6 climate projections. Biogeosciences, 20(2), 451–488. https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-20-451-2023

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