Role of Anthropogenic Climate Change in Autumn Drought Trend over China from 1961 to 2014


  • Understanding the impact of anthropogenic climate change on drought is of great significance to the prevention of its adverse effects. Two drought indices, standardized precipitation index (SPI) and standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI), are used here for the detection and attribution of autumn droughts in China, and for the exploration of the role played by the anthropogenic climate change. SPI is only related to precipitation, but SPEI involves both precipitation and potential evapotranspiration. For their trend’s spatial patterns, the historical simulations (including all forcings, noted as ALL) from 11 models of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 6, as an ensemble, are able to reproduce their observational counterpart. SPI shows wetting trend in the north of 35°N and drying trend in the south. SPEI shows drying trend in almost whole China. The drying trend in historical simulations ALL is significantly stronger, compared with the counterpart from the accompanying simulations (called NAT) with only natural forcings implemented. This result clearly indicates that anthropogenic climate change plays a dominant role in the enhancement of autumn drought in China. A more rigorous detection work is also performed with the signal’s fingerprint of ALL (and NAT) projected onto the observation and assessed with the background noise from no external-forcing control simulations. The trend pattern signal in ALL is significantly detected in observation for both SPI and SPEI, with a more pronounced signal in SPEI than in SPI, while the signal of NAT is not detected for neither SPI nor SPEI. Finally, extreme droughts (with indices beyond −2) are assessed in terms of probability ratio between ALL and NAT. It is shown that the anthropogenic precipitation change plays a leading role in the south of 35°N, while the anthropogenic temperature change leads in the north.
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