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Publication Date
29 June 2020

Observed changes in dry-season water availability attributed to human-induced climate change



Human-induced climate change impacts the hydrological cycle and thus the availability of water resources. However, previous assessments of observed warming-induced changes in dryness have not excluded natural climate variability and show conflicting results due to uncertainties in our understanding of the response of evapotranspiration. Here we employ data-driven and land-surface models to produce observation-based global reconstructions of water availability from 1902 to 2014, a period during which our planet experienced a global warming of approximately 1 °C. Our analysis reveals a spatial pattern of changes in average water availability during the driest month of the year over the past three decades compared with the first half of the twentieth century, with some regions experiencing increased and some decreased water availability. The global pattern is consistent with climate model estimates that account for anthropogenic effects, and it is not expected from natural climate variability, supporting human-induced climate change as the cause. There is regional evidence of drier dry seasons predominantly in extratropical latitudes and including Europe, western North America, northern Asia, southern South America, Australia and eastern Africa. We also find that the intensification of the dry season is generally a consequence of increasing evapotranspiration rather than decreasing precipitation.

“Observed Changes In Dry-Season Water Availability Attributed To Human-Induced Climate Change”. 2020. Nature Geoscience 13: 477-481. doi:10.1038/s41561-020-0594-1.
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