Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Advances in understanding large-scale responses of the water cycle to climate change

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

DOI

Open Access permissions

Open

Author(s)

Richard P. Allan, Mathew Barlow, Michael P. Byrne, Annalisa Cherchi, Hervé Douville, Hayley J. Fowler, Thian Y. Gan, Angeline G. Pendergrass, Daniel Rosenfeld, Abigail L. S. Swann, Laura J. Wilcox, Olga Zolina

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Globally, thermodynamics explains an increase in atmospheric water vapor with warming of around 7%/°C near to the surface. In contrast, global precipitation and evaporation are constrained by the Earth's energy balance to increase at ∼2–3%/°C. However, this rate of increase is suppressed by rapid atmospheric adjustments in response to greenhouse gases and absorbing aerosols that directly alter the atmospheric energy budget. Rapid adjustments to forcings, cooling effects from scattering aerosol, and observational uncertainty can explain why observed global precipitation responses are currently difficult to detect but are expected to emerge and accelerate as warming increases and aerosol forcing diminishes. Precipitation increases with warming are expected to be smaller over land than ocean due to limitations on moisture convergence, exacerbated by feedbacks and affected by rapid adjustments. Thermodynamic increases in atmospheric moisture fluxes amplify wet and dry events, driving an intensification of precipitation extremes. The rate of intensification can deviate from a simple thermodynamic response due to in‐storm and larger‐scale feedback processes, while changes in large‐scale dynamics and catchment characteristics further modulate the frequency of flooding in response to precipitation increases. Changes in atmospheric circulation in response to radiative forcing and evolving surface temperature patterns are capable of dominating water cycle changes in some regions. Moreover, the direct impact of human activities on the water cycle through water abstraction, irrigation, and land use change is already a significant component of regional water cycle change and is expected to further increase in importance as water demand grows with global population.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
VolumeEarly View
Early online date4 Apr 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Apr 2020

    Research areas

  • Climate change, Water cycle, Precipitation, Land surface, Radiative forcing

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Radiative effects of clouds and water vapor on an axisymmetric monsoon

    Byrne, M. P. & Zanna, L., 15 Oct 2020, In: Journal of Climate. 33, 20, p. 8789-8811

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. Monsoons Climate Change Assessment

    Wang, B., Biasutti, M., Byrne, M. P., Castro, C., Chang, C-P., Cook, K., Fu, R., Grimm, A. M., Ha, K-J., Hendon, H., Kitoh, A., Krishnan, R., Lee, J-Y., Li, J., Liu, J., Moise, A., Pascale, S., Roxy, M. K., Seth, A., Sui, C-H. & 5 others, Turner, A., Yang, S., Yun, K-S., Zhang, L. & Zhou, T., 6 May 2020, In: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. p. 1-60 60 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. Dynamics of ITCZ width: Ekman processes, non-Ekman processes, and links to sea surface temperature

    Byrne, M. P. & Thomas, R., Sep 2019, In: Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. 76, 9, p. 2869-2884 16 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  4. Controls on the width of tropical precipitation and its contraction under global warming

    Donohoe, A., Atwood, A. R. & Byrne, M. P., 29 Aug 2019, In: Geophysical Research Letters. Early View, 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  5. Response of the intertropical convergence zone to climate change: location, width and strength

    Byrne, M. P., Pendergrass, A., Rapp, A. & Wodzicki, K., 9 Aug 2018, In: Current Climate Change Reports. First Online, 16 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Related by journal

  1. Handedness is more than laterality: Lessons from chimpanzees

    Marchant, L. F. & Mcgrew, W. C., 18 Apr 2013, In: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1288, 1, p. 1-8 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. Introduction to the evolution of human handedness

    Mcgrew, W. C., Schiefenhövel, W. & Marchant, L. F., 6 Jun 2013, In: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1288, 1, p. v-vi

    Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

  3. Laterality in the gestural communication of wild chimpanzees

    Hobaiter, C. & Byrne, R. W., 2013, In: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1288, p. 9-16

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

ID: 267301812

Top