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Publication Date
22 March 2024

Quantifying the long-term changes of terrestrial water storage and their driving factors



Global warming is expected to cause changes in terrestrial water storage (TWS) across the land surface, with widespread impacts on ecosystems and society. Although extensive research has been performed to analyze TWS changes and possible drivers during the post-2000 period, longer-term evolution of TWS and associated environmental forcings remain relatively unexplored. In this study, we evaluated the performance of the Energy Exascale Earth System model (E3SM) land model ELM version 1 (ELM v1) in simulating global TWS, and used factorial simulations of ELMv1 to quantify global TWS changes and their drivers during 1948–2012. We found that ELM’s agreed best with existing satellites and reconstruction datasets in temperate regions unaffected by irrigation. Biome- and climate zone-averaged TWS mainly increased at rates between 0 and 10 mm/year over 1948–2012, but the second half of that period saw smaller positive trends than the first half or even negative trends. Climate change explained >80 % of the TWS trends across most biomes and climate zones, followed by land use and land cover change. The physiological and phenological effects of CO2 primarily induced noticeable TWS trends in the more humid biomes and climate zones across different latitudes. In contrast, nitrogen deposition and aerosol deposition generally had smaller and negative impacts across the biomes and climate regions. Among the meteorological drivers analyzed, the long-term average imbalance between precipitation (P), evapotranspiration (E), and runoff (Q) contributed >50 % of the TWS trends in most biomes and climate zones, with nonlinearity being induced by spatially heterogenous changes in E/P and Q/P ratios. The accumulated detrended anomalies in P, E, and Q also often contributed substantially, while the trends difference between P, E, and Q contributed little. Together, these findings unveiled an intensification of the global TWS and its diverse patterns of climate change and different non-withdrawal human-induced alterations, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding and projection of the global water cycle.

Shi, Xiaoying, Yaoping Wang, Jiafu Mao, Peter Thornton, Daniel Ricciuto, Forrest M. Hoffman, and Yuefeng Hao. 2024. “Quantifying The Long-Term Changes Of Terrestrial Water Storage And Their Driving Factors”. Journal Of Hydrology 635. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2024.131096.
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