Land-atmosphere coupling and climate change in Europe

Sonia I Seneviratne, Daniel Lüthi, Michael Litschi, Christoph Schär
Nature 2006 September 14, 443 (7108): 205-9
Increasing greenhouse gas concentrations are expected to enhance the interannual variability of summer climate in Europe and other mid-latitude regions, potentially causing more frequent heatwaves. Climate models consistently predict an increase in the variability of summer temperatures in these areas, but the underlying mechanisms responsible for this increase remain uncertain. Here we explore these mechanisms using regional simulations of recent and future climatic conditions with and without land-atmosphere interactions. Our results indicate that the increase in summer temperature variability predicted in central and eastern Europe is mainly due to feedbacks between the land surface and the atmosphere. Furthermore, they suggest that land-atmosphere interactions increase climate variability in this region because climatic regimes in Europe shift northwards in response to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, creating a new transitional climate zone with strong land-atmosphere coupling in central and eastern Europe. These findings emphasize the importance of soil-moisture-temperature feedbacks (in addition to soil-moisture-precipitation feedbacks) in influencing summer climate variability and the potential migration of climate zones with strong land-atmosphere coupling as a consequence of global warming. This highlights the crucial role of land-atmosphere interactions in future climate change.

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