Do the wet savannahs and shrublands of Africa provide a large reserve of potential croplands to produce food staples or bioenergy with low carbon and biodiversity costs? We find that only small percentages of these lands have meaningful potential to be low-carbon sources of maize (~2%) or soybeans (9.5–11.5%), meaning that their conversion would release at least one-third less carbon per ton of crop than released on average for the production of those crops on existing croplands.

Changes in the phenology of vegetation activity may accelerate or dampen rates of climate change by altering energy exchanges between the land surface and the atmosphere and can threaten species with synchronized life cycles. Current knowledge of long-term changes in vegetation activity is regional, or restricted to highly integrated measures of change such as net primary productivity, which mask details that are relevant for Earth system dynamics. Such details can be revealed by measuring changes in the phenology of vegetation activity.

Since the end of the twentieth century, global mean surface temperature has not risen as rapidly as predicted by global climate models (GCMs). This discrepancy has become known as the global warming ‘hiatus’ and a variety of mechanisms have been proposed to explain the observed slowdown in warming.

Climate change is now the leading cause of coral-reef degradation and is altering the adaptive landscape of coral populations. Increasing sea temperatures and declining carbonate saturation states are inhibiting short-term rates of coral calcification, carbonate precipitation and submarine cementation. A critical challenge to coral-reef conservation is understanding the mechanisms by which environmental perturbations scale up to influence long-term rates of reef-framework construction and ecosystem function.

Ocean acidification is a global, long-term problem whose ultimate solution requires carbon dioxide reduction at a scope and scale that will take decades to accomplish successfully. Until that is achieved, feasible and locally relevant adaptation and mitigation measures are needed. To help to prioritize societal responses to ocean acidification, we present a spatially explicit, multidisciplinary vulnerability analysis of coastal human communities in the United States. We focus our analysis on shelled mollusc harvests, which are likely to be harmed by ocean acidification.

Over the past 40 years, two of the dominant reef-building corals in the Caribbean, Acropora palmata and Acropora cervicornis, have experienced unprecedented declines. That loss has been largely attributed to a syndrome commonly referred to as white-band disease. Climate change-driven increases in sea surface temperature (SST) have been linked to several coral diseases, yet, despite decades of research, the attribution of white-band disease to climate change remains unknown.

Sustainable biomass can play a transformative role in the transition to a decarbonized economy, with potential applications in electricity, heat, chemicals and transportation fuels. Deploying bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) results in a net reduction in atmospheric carbon. BECCS may be one of the few cost-effective carbon-negative opportunities available should anthropogenic climate change be worse than anticipated or emissions reductions in other sectors prove particularly difficult.

The Arctic has warmed significantly more than global mean surface air temperature over recent decades, as expected from amplification mechanisms. Previous studies have attributed the observed Arctic warming to the combined effect of greenhouse gases and other anthropogenic influences. However, given the sensitivity of the Arctic to external forcing and the intense interest in the effects of aerosols on its climate, it is important to examine and quantify the effects of individual groups of anthropogenic forcing agents.

Increasing heat content of the global ocean dominates the energy imbalance in the climate system. Here we show that ocean heat gain over the 0–2,000 m layer continued at a rate of 0.4–0.6 W m−2 during 2006–2013. The depth dependence and spatial structure of temperature changes are described on the basis of the Argo Program's2 accurate and spatially homogeneous data set, through comparison of three Argo-only analyses.

Internal climate variability can mask or enhance human-induced sea-ice loss on timescales ranging from years to decades. It must be properly accounted for when considering observations, understanding projections and evaluating models.