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      Marine heatwaves under global warming

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      Nature

      Springer Nature America, Inc

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          Abstract

          Marine heatwaves (MHWs) are periods of extreme warm sea surface temperature that persist for days to months1 and can extend up to thousands of kilometres2. Some of the recently observed marine heatwaves revealed the high vulnerability of marine ecosystems3-11 and fisheries12-14 to such extreme climate events. Yet our knowledge about past occurrences15 and the future progression of MHWs is very limited. Here we use satellite observations and a suite of Earth system model simulations to show that MHWs have already become longer-lasting and more frequent, extensive and intense in the past few decades, and that this trend will accelerate under further global warming. Between 1982 and 2016, we detect a doubling in the number of MHW days, and this number is projected to further increase on average by a factor of 16 for global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to preindustrial levels and by a factor of 23 for global warming of 2.0 degrees Celsius. However, current national policies for the reduction of global carbon emissions are predicted to result in global warming of about 3.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the twenty-first century16, for which models project an average increase in the probability of MHWs by a factor of 41. At this level of warming, MHWs have an average spatial extent that is 21 times bigger than in preindustrial times, last on average 112 days and reach maximum sea surface temperature anomaly intensities of 2.5 degrees Celsius. The largest changes are projected to occur in the western tropical Pacific and Arctic oceans. Today, 87 per cent of MHWs are attributable to human-induced warming, with this ratio increasing to nearly 100 per cent under any global warming scenario exceeding 2 degrees Celsius. Our results suggest that MHWs will become very frequent and extreme under global warming, probably pushing marine organisms and ecosystems to the limits of their resilience and even beyond, which could cause irreversible changes.

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          Most cited references 30

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          What can we say about changes in the hydrologic cycle on 50-year timescales when we cannot predict rainfall next week? Eventually, perhaps, a great deal: the overall climate response to increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases may prove much simpler and more predictable than the chaos of short-term weather. Quantifying the diversity of possible responses is essential for any objective, probability-based climate forecast, and this task will require a new generation of climate modelling experiments, systematically exploring the range of model behaviour that is consistent with observations. It will be substantially harder to quantify the range of possible changes in the hydrologic cycle than in global-mean temperature, both because the observations are less complete and because the physical constraints are weaker.
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            An extreme climatic event alters marine ecosystem structure in a global biodiversity hotspot

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              Anthropogenic contribution to global occurrence of heavy-precipitation and high-temperature extremes

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Nature America, Inc
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                August 2018
                August 15 2018
                August 2018
                : 560
                : 7718
                : 360-364
                Article
                10.1038/s41586-018-0383-9
                30111788
                01e6a1af-c6a4-49e6-98ad-1b4c13a131de
                © 2018

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