Increasing compound warm spells and droughts in the Mediterranean Basin

Authors: Johannes Vogel and Eva Paton and Valentin Aich and Axel Bronstert
Journal: Weather and Climate Extremes
Year: 2021

The co-occurrence of warm spells and droughts can lead to detrimental socio-economic and ecological impacts, largely surpassing the impacts of either warm spells or droughts alone. We quantify changes in the number of compound warm spells and droughts from 1979 - 2018 in the Mediterranean Basin using the ERA5 data set. We analyse two types of compound events: 1) warm season compound events, which are extreme in absolute terms in the warm season from May to October and 2) year-round deseasonalised compound events, which are extreme in relative terms respective to the time of the year. The number of compound events increases significantly and especially warm spells are increasing strongly – with an annual growth rates of 3.9 (3.5) % for warm season (deseasonalised) compound events and 4.6 (4.4) % for warm spells –, whereas for droughts the change is more ambiguous depending on the applied definition. Therefore, the rise in the number of compound events is primarily driven by temperature changes and not the lack of precipitation. The months July and August show the highest increases in warm season compound events, whereas the highest increases of deseasonalised compound events occur in spring and early summer. This increase in deseasonalised compound events can potentially have a significant impact on the functioning of Mediterranean ecosystems as this is the peak phase of ecosystem productivity and a vital phenophase.