Global and Planetary Change
Abstract This study examined shifts in climate regimes over the global land area using the Köppen–Trewartha (K–T) climate classification by analyzing observations during 1900–2010, and simulations during 1900–2100 from twenty global climate models participating in Phase 5 of the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project (CMIP5). Under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Representative Concentration Pathways 8.5 (RCP8.5) scenario, the models projected a 3°–10 °C warming in annual temperature over the global land area by the end of the twenty-first century, with strong (moderate) warming in the high (middle) latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere and weaker warming in the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere. The projected changes in precipitation vary considerably in space and present greater uncertainties among the models. Overall, the models are consistent in projecting increasing precipitation over the high-latitude of the Northern Hemisphere, and reduced precipitation in the Mediterranean, southwestern North America, northern and southern Africa and Australia. Based on the projected changes in temperature and precipitation, the K–T climate types would shift toward warmer and drier climate types from the current climate distribution. Regions of temperate, tropical and dry climate types are projected to expand, while regions of polar, sub-polar and subtropical climate types are projected to contract. The magnitudes of the projected changes are stronger in the RCP8.5 scenario than the low emission scenario RCP4.5. On average, the climate types in 31.4% and 46.3% of the global land area are projected to change by the end of the twenty-first century under RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 scenarios, respectively. Further analysis suggests that changes in precipitation played a slightly more important role in causing shifts of climate type during the twentieth century. However, the projected changes in temperature play an increasingly important role and dominate shifts in climate type when the warming becomes more pronounced in the twenty-first century.