Climate change leads to a more frequent occurrence of hot days (HDs) and hot nights (HNs). The consecutive occurrence of HDs and HNs (COHs) is often used as a measure of the persistence of an extremely hot spell. Nonetheless, the combined effect of air temperature and relative humidity on the changing COHs has never been studied. In this paper, we use an ensemble of global climate models and multiple thermal indices to robustly examine the combined effect of air temperature and relative humidity on COHs globally on an hourly basis. Our findings reveal that COHs show an increasing trend in the future and a strong latitudinal gradient increasing from high latitudes to the equator. Compared to COHs based on air temperature, the frequency of COHs based on perceived temperature is amplified by the combined effects of high temperature and humidity for both boreal and austral summers. To investigate the underlying mechanisms, we examine two different diurnal temperature ranges (DTRs), derived from air temperature and perceived temperature, for their corresponding types of COHs. Both DTRs are projected to increase in the future relative to the historical period from 1980 to 2004, but the DTR changes derived from perceived temperature are consistently larger than those derived from air temperature. Due to the nonlinearity in thermal indices, the perceived temperature in HDs and HNs rising faster than air temperature leads to a larger increase in perceived COHs. The COHs are further amplified by the increasing number of HNs and HDs that occur consecutively under wet conditions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science