Australia's unprecedented future temperature extremes under Paris limits to warming

Sophie Lewis, Andrew King, Daniel M. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter (Academic Journal)peer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
332 Downloads (Pure)


Record-breaking temperatures can detrimentally impact ecosystems, infrastructure, and human health. Previous studies show that climate change has influenced some observed extremes, which are expected to become more frequent under enhanced future warming. Understanding the magnitude, as a well as frequency, of such future extremes is critical for limiting detrimental impacts. We focus on temperature changes in Australian regions, including over a major coral reef-building area, and assess the potential magnitude of future extreme temperatures under Paris Agreement global warming targets (1.5°C and 2°C). Under these limits to global mean warming, we determine a set of projected high-magnitude unprecedented Australian temperature extremes. These include extremes unexpected based on observational temperatures, including current record-breaking events. For example, while the difference in global-average warming during the hottest Australian summer and the 2°C Paris target is 1.1°C, extremes of 2.4°C above the observed summer record are simulated. This example represents a more than doubling of the magnitude of extremes, compared with global mean change, and such temperatures are unexpected based on the observed record alone. Projected extremes do not necessarily scale linearly with mean global warming and this effect demonstrates the significant potential benefits of limiting warming to 1.5°C, compared to 2°C or warmer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9947-9956
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2017


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