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Multivariate climate departures have outpaced univariate changes across global lands.

  • Author(s): Abatzoglou, John T
  • Dobrowski, Solomon Z
  • Parks, Sean A
  • et al.
Abstract

Changes in individual climate variables have been widely documented over the past century. However, assessments that consider changes in the collective interaction amongst multiple climate variables are relevant for understanding climate impacts on ecological and human systems yet are less well documented than univariate changes. We calculate annual multivariate climate departures during 1958-2017 relative to a baseline 1958-1987 period that account for covariance among four variables important to Earth's biota and associated systems: annual climatic water deficit, annual evapotranspiration, average minimum temperature of the coldest month, and average maximum temperature of the warmest month. Results show positive trends in multivariate climate departures that were nearly three times that of univariate climate departures across global lands. Annual multivariate climate departures exceeded two standard deviations over the past decade for approximately 30% of global lands. Positive trends in climate departures over the last six decades were found to be primarily the result of changes in mean climate conditions consistent with the modeled effects of anthropogenic climate change rather than changes in variability. These results highlight the increasing novelty of annual climatic conditions viewed through a multivariate lens and suggest that changes in multivariate climate departures have generally outpaced univariate departures in recent decades.

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