What is it about?

Human-induced land cover change such as deforestation can have significant impacts on mean climate but also for extreme weather events to which socio-economical systems are highly vulnerable. However, until now, very few studies quantified those impacts in a consistent modelling framework. Our study uses with and without land cover change simulations performed with 5 Earth System Models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We find future deforestation substantially modulates projections of weather extremes. In particular, future land cover changes robustly lessen global projections of high rainfall extremes but the effects are higher at regional scale. For instance, accounting for LCC intensifies projected dry days in eastern Africa by 29%. Even if we adopt strong mitigation measures to respect the 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement, projected deforestation in Amazon or Asia would increase future droughts. We stress here that multi-modelling frameworks incorporating all aspects of land use-land cover change are needed for reliable projections of extreme events.

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Why is it important?

We provide the most robust state-of-the-art results on future deforestation impact on weather extremes. For the first time, we assessed future deforestation/extreme links in 5 models, 26 regions, among 20 weather extreme indices and on 2 future scenarios (with and without strong mitigation measures). Our main finding is : Deforestation worsens drought projections.

Perspectives

This study has strong implications for climate policy and land-based mitigation strategies because land use dynamics have to be necessarily taken into account in any climatic or environmental assessment at regional and local scale. I hope this article shows that deforestation impact is not only limited to global mean temperature change.

Benjamin Quesada
Universidad Del Rosario

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This page is a summary of: Anthropogenic land cover change impact on climate extremes during the 21st century, Environmental Research Letters, January 2020, Institute of Physics Publishing, DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab702c.
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