Regional adaptions can cool heat extremes by up to 2-3 C

January 30, 2018, University of New South Wales
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

New research published today in Nature Geoscience has found that climate engineering that modifies the properties of the land surface in highly populated areas and agricultural areas over North American, Europe and Asia could reduce extreme temperatures there by up to 2-3°C.

The modifications could include lightening buildings, roads and other infrastructure in high population areas and changing crops and engaging in no-till agricultural practices.

Unlike many other climate-engineering methods proposed to tackle , many of these regional modifications have already been tested and proven to work. Critically, this method has fewer risks compared with injecting aerosols into the atmosphere.

"Extreme temperatures are where human and natural systems are most vulnerable. Changing the radiative properties of land helps address this issue with fewer side effects," said Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, Prof Andy Pitman.

"This research suggests that by taking a regional approach, at least in temperate zones, policy and investment decisions can be pragmatically and affordably focused on areas of greatest need."

By contrast other proposed forms of large-scale climate engineering, such as spraying sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere, fertilising the ocean with iron and even building giant mirrors in space, have questionable effectiveness and are likely to alter climate systems in unexpected ways.  They could make situations worse for some countries.

The researchers gained their results by modelling how changing only the radiative properties of agricultural land and high population areas across North America, Europe and Asia would impact average temperatures, extreme temperatures and precipitation.

The results showed small impacts on , little change in precipitation - except in Asia - but significant reductions in .

"Regional land-based climate engineering can be effective but we need to consider competing demands for land use, for instance for food production, biodiversity, carbon uptake, recreational areas and much more before putting it into effect," said lead author Prof Sonia Seneviratne of ETH Zurich.

"We must remember land-based is not a silver bullet, it is just one part of a possible solution, and it would have no effects on global mean warming or ocean acidification. There are still important moral, economic and practical imperatives to consider that mean mitigation and adaption should still remain at the forefront of our approach to dealing with global warming."

Explore further: Global warming increases rain in world's driest areas

More information: Sonia I. Seneviratne et al. Land radiative management as contributor to regional-scale climate adaptation and mitigation, Nature Geoscience (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-017-0057-5

Related Stories

No warming hiatus for extreme hot temperatures

February 26, 2014

Extremely hot temperatures over land have dramatically and unequivocally increased in number and area despite claims that the rise in global average temperatures has slowed over the past 10 to 20 years.

Early climate 'payback' with higher emission reductions

April 3, 2017

Climate scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre have shown that the early mitigation needed to limit eventual warming below potentially dangerous levels has a climate 'payback' much earlier than previously thought.

Recommended for you

Machine learning-detected signal predicts time to earthquake

December 18, 2018

Machine-learning research published in two related papers today in Nature Geoscience reports the detection of seismic signals accurately predicting the Cascadia fault's slow slippage, a type of failure observed to precede ...

The full story on climate change requires the long view

December 17, 2018

The science is clear that human activities over the last century have contributed to greenhouse-like warming of the Earth's surface. Much of the global conversation around climate change fixates on what individual countries ...

Does saving energy save the climate?

December 17, 2018

To stop climate change, saving energy matters less than switching to renewable energy. Indeed, says Anthony Patt, it isn't clear whether saving energy makes much of a difference at all.

Do you know the carbon footprint of your food choices?

December 17, 2018

Shoppers greatly underestimate the difference their food choices can make to climate change, but they'll favour items with a lower carbon footprint if they're given clear information on the label, according to new research ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.