Understanding how the variability of daily temperature may change with greenhouse gas emissions is important because it has been identified as a key factor in societal and economic well-being. Assessing historical changes to daily temperature variability in comparison with those from state-of-the-art climate models, we show that variability has changed with distinct global patterns over the past 65 years, changes which are attributable to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases. If these rises continue, temperature variability is projected to increase by up to 100% at low latitudes and decrease by 40% at northern high latitudes by the end of the century. We further show that these changes would be limited by mitigating emissions and will depend on the equilibrium climate sensitivity.
Changes in mean climatic conditions will affect natural and societal systems profoundly under continued anthropogenic global warming. Changes in the high-frequency variability of temperature exert additional pressures, yet the effect of greenhouse forcing thereon has not been fully assessed or identified in observational data. Here, we show that the intramonthly variability of daily surface temperature changes with distinct global patterns as greenhouse gas concentrations rise. In both reanalyses of historical observations and state-of-the-art projections, variability increases at low to mid latitudes and decreases at northern mid to high latitudes with enhanced greenhouse forcing. These latitudinally polarized daily variability changes are identified from internal climate variability using a recently developed signal-to-noise-maximizing pattern-filtering technique. Analysis of a multimodel ensemble from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 shows that these changes are attributable to enhanced greenhouse forcing. By the end of the century under a business-as-usual emissions scenario, daily temperature variability would continue to increase by up to a further 100% at low latitudes and decrease by 40% at northern high latitudes. Alternative scenarios demonstrate that these changes would be limited by mitigation of greenhouse gases. Moreover, global changes in daily variability exhibit strong covariation with warming across climate models, suggesting that the equilibrium climate sensitivity will also play a role in determining the extent of future variability changes. This global response of the high-frequency climate system to enhanced greenhouse forcing is likely to have strong and unequal effects on societies, economies, and ecosystems if mitigation and protection measures are not taken.
Author contributions: M.K. and A.L. designed the research; M.K. performed the research; M.K., L.W., and A.L. analyzed the results; and M.K. and L.W. wrote the paper.
The authors declare no competing interest.
This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. A.B. is a guest editor invited by the Editorial Board.
This article contains supporting information online at https://www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.2103294118/-/DCSupplemental.
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