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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-480
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-480
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 14 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 14 Oct 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Projected increases in magnitude and socioeconomic exposure of global droughts in 1.5 °C and 2 °C warmer climates

Lei Gu1, Jie Chen1,2, Jiabo Yin1, Sylvia C. Sullivan3, Hui-Min Wang1, Shenglian Guo1, Liping Zhang1,2, and Jong-Suk Kim1,2 Lei Gu et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Science, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, P. R. China
  • 2Hubei Provincial Key Lab of Water System Science for Sponge City Construction, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China
  • 3Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA

Abstract. The Paris Agreement sets a long-term temperature goal to hold global warming to well below 2.0 °C and strives to limit to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels. Droughts with either intense severity or a long persistence could both lead to substantial impacts such as infrastructure failure and ecosystem vulnerability, and they are projected to occur more frequently and trigger intensified socioeconomic consequences with global warming. However, existing assessments targeting global droughts under 1.5 °C and 2.0 °C warming levels usually neglect the multifaceted nature of droughts and might underestimate potential risks. This study, within a bivariate framework, quantifies the change of global drought conditions and corresponding socioeconomic exposures for additional 1.5 °C and 2.0 °C warming trajectories. The drought characteristics are identified using the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) combined with the run theory, with the climate scenarios projected by 13 Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) global climate models (GCMs) under three representative concentration pathways (RCP2.6, 4.5 and 8.5). The copula functions and the most likely realization are incorporated to model the joint distribution of drought severity and duration, and changes in the bivariate return period with global warming are evaluated. Finally, the drought exposures of populations and regional gross domestic product (GDP) under different shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs) are investigated globally. The results show that within the bivariate framework, the historical 50-year droughts may double across 58 % of global landmasses in a 1.5 °C warmer world, while when the warming climbs up to 2.0 °C, an additionally 9 % of world landmasses would be exposed to such catastrophic drought deteriorations. More than 75 (73) countries' population (GDP) will be completely affected by increasing drought risks under the 1.5 °C warming, while an extra 0.5 °C warming will further lead to an additional 17 countries suffering from a nearly unbearable situation. Our results demonstrate that limiting global warming to 1.5 °C, compared with 2 °C warming, can perceptibly mitigate the drought impacts over major regions of the world.

Lei Gu et al.
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Short summary
This study, within a bivariate framework, quantifies the change of global drought conditions and socioeconomic exposures for 1.5 °C and 2.0 °C warming trajectories. The results show more than 75 (73) countries' population (GDP) will be completely affected by increasing drought risks under the 1.5 °C warming, while an extra 0.5 °C warming will further lead to an additional 17 countries suffering from a nearly unbearable situation.
This study, within a bivariate framework, quantifies the change of global drought conditions and...
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