Anthropogenic forcing is anticipated to increase the magnitude and frequency of precipitation-induced extremes such as the increase in drought risks. However, the model-projected future changes in global droughts remain largely uncertain, particularly in the context of the Paris Agreement targets. Here, by using the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) we present a multi-scale global assessment of the precipitation-driven meteorological drought characteristics at the 1.5 °C and 2 °C warming levels based on 28 CMIP5 global climate models (GCMs) under three Representative Concentration Pathways scenarios (RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). The results show large uncertainties in the timing reaching 1.5 °C and 2 °C warming and the changes in drought characteristics among GCMs, especially at longer timescales and under higher RCP scenarios. The multi-GCM ensemble mean projects a general increase in drought frequency (Df) and area (Da) over North America, Europe and northern Asia at both 1.5 °C and 2 °C of global warming. The additional 0.5 °C warming from 1.5 °C to 2 °C is expected to result in a trend toward wetter climatic conditions for most global regions (e.g., North America, Europe, northern Asia, and northern Africa) due to the continuing increase in precipitation under the more intensified 2 °C warming. In contrast, the increase in Df is projected only in some parts of southwest Asia, South America, southern Africa and Australia. Our results highlight the need to consider multiple GCMs in drought projection studies under the context of the Paris Agreement targets to account for large model-dependent uncertainties.

This content is only available as a PDF.