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State-of-the-art global models underestimate impacts from climate extremes

Schewe, Jacob; Gosling, Simon N.; Reyer, Christopher; Zhao, Fang; Ciais, Philippe; Elliott, Joshua; Francois, Louis; Huber, Veronika; Lotze, Heike K.; Seneviratne, Sonia I.; Van Vliet, Michelle T.H.; Vautard, Robert; Wada, Yoshihide; Breuer, Lutz; Büchner, Matthias; Carozza, David A.; Chang, Jinfeng; Coll, Marta; Deryng, Delphine; De Wit, Allard; Eddy, Tyler D.; Folberth, Christian; Frieler, Katja; Gerten, Dieter; Gudmundsson, Lukas; Hanasaki, Naota; Ito, Akihiko; Khabarov, Nikolay; Kim, Hyungjun; Lawrence, Peter; Morfopoulos, Catherine; Müller, Christoph; Schmied, Hannes Müller; Orth, Rene; Ostberg, Sebastian; Pokhrel, Yadu; Pugh, Thomas A.M.; Sakurai, Gen; Satoh, Yusuke; Schmid, Erwin; Stacke, Tobias; Steenbeek, Jeroen; Steinkamp, Jörg; Tang, Qiuhong; Tian, Hanqin; Tittensor, Derek P.; Volkholz, Jan; Wang, Xuhui; Warszawski, Lila

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Jacob Schewe

Professor of Climate Risks and Environmental Modelling

Christopher Reyer

Fang Zhao

Philippe Ciais

Joshua Elliott

Louis Francois

Veronika Huber

Heike K. Lotze

Sonia I. Seneviratne

Michelle T.H. Van Vliet

Robert Vautard

Yoshihide Wada

Lutz Breuer

Matthias Büchner

David A. Carozza

Jinfeng Chang

Marta Coll

Delphine Deryng

Allard De Wit

Tyler D. Eddy

Christian Folberth

Katja Frieler

Dieter Gerten

Lukas Gudmundsson

Naota Hanasaki

Akihiko Ito

Nikolay Khabarov

Hyungjun Kim

Peter Lawrence

Catherine Morfopoulos

Christoph Müller

Hannes Müller Schmied

Rene Orth

Sebastian Ostberg

Yadu Pokhrel

Thomas A.M. Pugh

Gen Sakurai

Yusuke Satoh

Erwin Schmid

Tobias Stacke

Jeroen Steenbeek

Jörg Steinkamp

Qiuhong Tang

Hanqin Tian

Derek P. Tittensor

Jan Volkholz

Xuhui Wang

Lila Warszawski


Global impact models represent process-level understanding of how natural and human systems may be affected by climate change. Their projections are used in integrated assessments of climate change. Here we test, for the first time, systematically across many important systems, how well such impact models capture the impacts of extreme climate conditions. Using the 2003 European heat wave and drought as a historical analogue for comparable events in the future, we find that a majority of models underestimate the extremeness of impacts in important sectors such as agriculture, terrestrial ecosystems, and heat-related human mortality, while impacts on water resources and hydropower are overestimated in some river basins; and the spread across models is often large. This has important implications for economic assessments of climate change impacts that rely on these models. It also means that societal risks from future extreme events may be greater than previously thought.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 28, 2019
Online Publication Date Mar 1, 2019
Publication Date Mar 1, 2019
Deposit Date Jan 30, 2019
Publicly Available Date Mar 1, 2019
Journal Nature Communications
Electronic ISSN 2041-1723
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Article Number 1005
Pages 1-14
Keywords General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; General Physics and Astronomy; General Chemistry
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Received: 9 January 2018; Accepted: 28 January 2019; First Online: 1 March 2019; : The authors declare no competing interests.


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