Widespread irreversible changes in surface temperature and precipitation in response to CO2 forcing

Soong Ki Kim, Jongsoo Shin, Soon Il An, Hyo Jeong Kim, Nari Im, Shang Ping Xie, Jong Seong Kug, Sang Wook Yeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Some climate variables do not show the same response to declining atmospheric CO2 concentrations as before the preceding increase. A comprehensive understanding of this hysteresis effect and its regional patterns is, however, lacking. Here we use an Earth system model with an idealized CO2 removal scenario to show that surface temperature and precipitation exhibit globally widespread irreversible changes over a timespan of centuries. To explore the climate hysteresis and reversibility on a regional scale, we develop a quantification method that visualizes their spatial patterns. Our experiments project that 89% and 58% of the global area experiences irreversible changes in surface temperature and precipitation, respectively. Strong irreversible response of surface temperature is found in the Southern Ocean, Arctic and North Atlantic Ocean and of precipitation in the tropical Pacific, global monsoon regions and the Himalayas. These global hotspots of irreversible changes can indicate elevated risks of negative impacts on developing countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)834-840
Number of pages7
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Sept

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to D. Kim for stimulating the discussion of the research. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIT) (NRF-2018R1A5A1024958) and Yonsei Signature Research Cluster Program of 2021 (2021-22-0003). The CESM simulation was carried out on the supercomputer supported by the National Center for Meteorological Supercomputer of Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), the National Supercomputing Center with supercomputing resources, associated technical support (KSC-2019-CHA-0005) and the Korea Research Environment Open NETwork (KREONET).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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