cover image: Climate change impacts on Central Asia: Trends, extremes and future projections


Climate change impacts on Central Asia: Trends, extremes and future projections

4 Jun 2024

Central Asia (CA) is among the world's most vulnerable regions to climate change. Increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations (GHGs) are the primary forcing of the current and future climate system for the time scale of a century. By analysing observation datasets, we show that a warming of 1.2°C led to a decrease of 20% in snow-depth CA during the last 70 years, especially over the mountains. In recent decades, longer summer times and fewer icing days (more than 20 days·year−1) have exposed unprecedented shock to CA's climate system's components. Furthermore, we analyse 442 model simulations from Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project Phase 5 and 6 (CMIP5, CMIP6) and show that CMIP6 simulations are generally warmer and wetter than the CMIP5 ones in CA. For instance, under the highest emission scenarios (RCP8.5 and SSP5-8.5), CMIP6 projects a 6.1°C increase, while CMIP5 projects a 5.3°C increase, suggesting CMIP6 anticipates greater warming with high emissions. In contrast to CMIP6, the CMIP5 precipitation trends suggest a potential nonlinear relationship between increased greenhouse gas emissions and changes in precipitation, though the impact is much less pronounced than the temperature changes. Our analysis shows that CMIP6 models are more sensitive to temperature rise than CMIP5 ones. Both simulation sets' ensemble means capture well the observed warming trend. The imposed snow-melting leads to an increase in the run-off in the vicinity of glaciers. Such climatic shifts lead to more flooding events in CA. Given the projected warming range of 2–6°C in CA at the end of the century in various scenarios and models, such warming trends might be catastrophic in this region. The seasonal cycle of the temperature change indicates an extension of the glacier's melting period under future scenarios with fossil-fueled development. The models' uncertainty increases for the far-future time-slice, and warming larger than 4°C in CA is very likely among all the models and during all the seasons if no sustainable action is taken. This study also incorporates a detailed Köppen climate classification analysis, revealing significant shifts towards warmer climate categories in Central Asia, which may have profound implications for regional hydrological cycles and water resource management, particularly in the Amu Darya and Syr Darya river basins under warmer scenario by the end of the century. The Tundra and ice cap climate categories will lose more than 60% of their coverage at the end of the century compared to the historical period in the Amu Darya and Syr Darya river basins.
atmosphere weather climate impacts extremes rd1 - earth system analysis rd2 - climate resilience


Fallah, Bijan H., Didovets, Iulii, Rostami, Masoud, Hamidi, Mehdi

Fallah, B. H., Didovets, I., Rostami, M., Hamidi, M. (2024 online): Climate change impacts on Central Asia: Trends, extremes and future projections. - International Journal of Climatology.
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