- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Climate Dynamics
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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null (Ed.)Global hydroclimatic changes from 1950 to 2018 are analyzed using updated data of land precipitation, streamfow, and an improved form of the Palmer Drought Severity Index. The historical changes are then compared with climate model-simulated response to external forcing to determine how much of the recent change is forced response. It is found that precipitation has increased from 1950 to 2018 over mid-high latitude Eurasia, most North America, Southeast South America, and Northwest Australia, while it has decreased over most Africa, eastern Australia, the Mediterranean region, the Middle East, and parts of East Asia, central South America, and the Pacifc coasts of Canada. Streamfow records largely confrm these precipitation changes. The wetting trend over Northwest Australia and Southeast South America is most pronounced in austral summer while the drying over Africa and wetting trend over mid-high latitude Eurasia are seen in all seasons. Coupled with the drying caused by rising surface temperatures, these precipitation changes have greatly increased the risk of drought over Africa, southern Europe, East Asia, eastern Australia, Northwest Canada, and southern Brazil. Global land precipitation and continental freshwater discharge show large interannual and inter-decadal variations, with negative anomalies during El Niño and following major volcanic eruptions in 1963, 1982, and 1991; whereas their decadal variations are correlated with the Interdecadal Pacifc Oscillation (IPO) with IPO’s warm phase associated with low land precipitation and continental discharge. The IPO and Atlantic multidecadal variability also dominate multidecadal variations in land aridity, accounting for 90% of the multidecadal variance. CMIP5 multi-model ensemble mean shows decreased precipitation and runoff and increased risk of drought during 1950–2018 over Southwest North America, Central America, northern and central South America (including the Amazon), southern and West Africa, the Mediterranean region, and Southeast Asia; while the northern mid-high latitudes, Southeast South America, and Northwest Australia see increased precipitation and runoff. The consistent spatial patterns between the observed changes and the model-simulated response suggest that many of the observed drying and wetting trends since 1950 may have resulted at least partly from historical external forcing. However, the drying over Southeast Asia and wetting over Northwest Australia are absent in the 21st century projections.more » « less
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Instrumental records indicate a century-long trend towards drying over western North America and wetting over eastern North America. A continuation of these trends into the future would have significant hydroclimatic and socioeconomic consequences in both the semi-arid Southwest and humid East. Using tree-ring reconstructions and hydrologic simulations of summer soil moisture, we evaluate and contextualize the modern summer aridity gradient within its natural range of variability established over the past 600 years and evaluate the effects of observed and anthropogenic precipitation, temperature, and humidity trends. The 2001–2020 positive (wet east-dry west) aridity gradient was larger than any 20 year period since 1400 CE, preceded by the most negative (wet west-dry east) aridity gradient during 1976–1995, leading to a strong multi-decade reversal in aridity gradient anomalies that was rivaled only by a similar event in the late-16th century. The 2001–2020 aridity gradient was dominated by long-term summer precipitation increases in the Midwest and Northeast, with smaller contributions from more warming in the West than the East and spring precipitation decreases in the Southwest. Multi-model mean climate simulations from Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 6 experiments suggest anthropogenic climate trends should not have strongly affected the aridity gradient thus far. However, there is high uncertainty due to inter-model disagreement on anthropogenic precipitation trends. The recent strengthening of the observed aridity gradient, its increasing dependence on precipitation variability, and disagreement in modeled anthropogenic precipitation trends reveal significant uncertainties in how water resource availability will change across North America in the coming decades.