Anthropogenic land cover change impact on climate extremes during the 21st century

Souleymane Sy, Benjamin Quesada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Anthropogenic land cover change (LCC) can have significant impacts at regional and seasonal scales but also for extreme weather events to which socio-economical systems are vulnerable. However, the effects of LCC on extreme events remain either largely unexplored and/or without consensus following modelling over the historical period (often based on a single model), regional or idealized studies. Here, using simulations performed with five earth system models under common future global LCC scenarios (the RCP8.5 and RCP2.6 Representative Concentration Pathways) and analyzing 20 extreme weather indices, we find future LCC substantially modulates projected weather extremes. On average by the end of the 21st century, under RCP8.5, future LCC robustly lessens global projections of high rainfall extremes by 22% for heavy precipitation days (>10 mm) and by 16% for total precipitation amount of wet days (PRCPTOT). Accounting for LCC diminishes their regional projections by >50% (70%) in southern Africa (northeastern Brazil) but intensifies projected dry days in eastern Africa by 29%. LCC does not substantially affect projections of global and regional temperature extremes (<5%), but it can impact global rainfall extremes 2.5 times more than global mean rainfall projections. Under an RCP2.6 scenario, global LCC impacts are similar but of lesser magnitude, while at regional scale in Amazon or Asia, LCC enhances drought projections. We stress here that multi-coupled modelling frameworks incorporating all aspects of land use are needed for reliable projections of extreme events.

Translated title of the contributionImpacto del cambio antropogénico de la cubierta terrestre en los extremos climáticos durante el siglo XXI
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number034002
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 18 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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