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  1. Abstract

    Global water models are increasingly used to understand past, present and future water cycles, but disagreements between simulated variables make model-based inferences uncertain. Although there is empirical evidence of different large-scale relationships in hydrology, these relationships are rarely considered in model evaluation. Here we evaluate global water models using functional relationships that capture the spatial co-variability of forcing variables (precipitation, net radiation) and key response variables (actual evapotranspiration, groundwater recharge, total runoff). Results show strong disagreement in both shape and strength of model-based functional relationships, especially for groundwater recharge. Empirical and theory-derived functional relationships show varying agreements with models, indicating that our process understanding is particularly uncertain for energy balance processes, groundwater recharge processes and in dry and/or cold regions. Functional relationships offer great potential for model evaluation and an opportunity for fundamental advances in global hydrology and Earth system research in general.

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  2. Abstract Droughts are anticipated to intensify in many parts of the world due to climate change. However, the issue of drought definition, namely the diversity of drought indices, makes it difficult to compare drought assessments. This issue is widely known, but its relative importance has never been quantitatively evaluated in comparison to other sources of uncertainty. Here, encompassing three drought categories (meteorological, agricultural, and hydrological droughts) with four temporal scales of interest, we evaluated changes in the drought frequency using multi-model and multi-scenario simulations to identify areas where the definition issue could result in pronounced uncertainties and to what extent. We investigated the disagreement in the signs of changes between drought definitions and decomposed the variance into four main factors: drought definitions, greenhouse gas concentration scenarios, global climate models, and global water models, as well as their interactions. The results show that models were the primary sources of variance over 82% of the global land area. On the other hand, the drought definition was the dominant source of variance in the remaining 17%, especially in parts of northern high-latitudes. Our results highlight specific regions where differences in drought definitions result in a large spread among projections, including areas showing opposite signs of significant changes. At a global scale, 7% of the variance resulted independently from the definition issue, and that value increased to 44% when 1st and 2nd order interactions were considered. The quantitative results suggest that by clarifying hydrological processes or sectors of interest, one could avoid these uncertainties in drought assessments to obtain a clearer picture of future drought change. 
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  3. Abstract One of the most important physical characteristics driving lifecycle events in lakes is stratification. Already subtle variations in the timing of stratification onset and break-up (phenology) are known to have major ecological effects, mainly by determining the availability of light, nutrients, carbon and oxygen to organisms. Despite its ecological importance, historic and future global changes in stratification phenology are unknown. Here, we used a lake-climate model ensemble and long-term observational data, to investigate changes in lake stratification phenology across the Northern Hemisphere from 1901 to 2099. Under the high-greenhouse-gas-emission scenario, stratification will begin 22.0 ± 7.0 days earlier and end 11.3 ± 4.7 days later by the end of this century. It is very likely that this 33.3 ± 11.7 day prolongation in stratification will accelerate lake deoxygenation with subsequent effects on nutrient mineralization and phosphorus release from lake sediments. Further misalignment of lifecycle events, with possible irreversible changes for lake ecosystems, is also likely. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract. Billions of people rely on groundwater as being an accessible source of drinking water and for irrigation, especially in times of drought. Its importance will likely increase with a changing climate. It is still unclear, however, how climate change will impact groundwater systems globally and, thus, the availability of this vital resource. Groundwater recharge is an important indicator for groundwater availability, but it is a water flux that is difficult to estimate as uncertainties in the water balance accumulate, leading to possibly large errors in particular in dry regions. This study investigates uncertainties in groundwater recharge projections using a multi-model ensemble of eight global hydrological models (GHMs) that are driven by the bias-adjusted output of four global circulation models (GCMs). Pre-industrial and current groundwater recharge values are compared with recharge for different global warming (GW) levels as a result of three representative concentration pathways (RCPs). Results suggest that projected changes strongly vary among the different GHM–GCM combinations, and statistically significant changes are only computed for a few regions of the world. Statistically significant GWR increases are projected for northern Europe and some parts of the Arctic, East Africa, and India. Statistically significant decreases are simulated in southern Chile, parts of Brazil, central USA, the Mediterranean, and southeastern China. In some regions, reversals of groundwater recharge trends can be observed with global warming. Because most GHMs do not simulate the impact of changing atmospheric CO2 and climate on vegetation and, thus, evapotranspiration, we investigate how estimated changes in GWR are affected by the inclusion of these processes. In some regions, inclusion leads to differences in groundwater recharge changes of up to 100 mm per year. Most GHMs with active vegetation simulate less severe decreases in groundwater recharge than GHMs without active vegetation and, in some regions, even increases instead of decreases are simulated. However, in regions where GCMs predict decreases in precipitation and where groundwater availability is the most important, model agreement among GHMs with active vegetation is the lowest. Overall, large uncertainties in the model outcomes suggest that additional research on simulating groundwater processes in GHMs is necessary. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
  6. Abstract. The Earth climate system is out of energy balance, and heat hasaccumulated continuously over the past decades, warming the ocean, the land,the cryosphere, and the atmosphere. According to the Sixth Assessment Reportby Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,this planetary warming over multiple decades is human-driven and results inunprecedented and committed changes to the Earth system, with adverseimpacts for ecosystems and human systems. The Earth heat inventory providesa measure of the Earth energy imbalance (EEI) and allows for quantifyinghow much heat has accumulated in the Earth system, as well as where the heat isstored. Here we show that the Earth system has continued to accumulateheat, with 381±61 ZJ accumulated from 1971 to 2020. This is equivalent to aheating rate (i.e., the EEI) of 0.48±0.1 W m−2. The majority,about 89 %, of this heat is stored in the ocean, followed by about 6 %on land, 1 % in the atmosphere, and about 4 % available for meltingthe cryosphere. Over the most recent period (2006–2020), the EEI amounts to0.76±0.2 W m−2. The Earth energy imbalance is the mostfundamental global climate indicator that the scientific community and thepublic can use as the measure of how well the world is doing in the task ofbringing anthropogenic climate change under control. Moreover, thisindicator is highly complementary to other established ones like global meansurface temperature as it represents a robust measure of the rate of climatechange and its future commitment. We call for an implementation of theEarth energy imbalance into the Paris Agreement's Global Stocktake based onbest available science. The Earth heat inventory in this study, updated fromvon Schuckmann et al. (2020), is underpinned by worldwide multidisciplinarycollaboration and demonstrates the critical importance of concertedinternational efforts for climate change monitoring and community-basedrecommendations and we also call for urgently needed actions for enablingcontinuity, archiving, rescuing, and calibrating efforts to assure improvedand long-term monitoring capacity of the global climate observing system. The data for the Earth heat inventory are publicly available, and more details are provided in Table 4. 
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  7. Abstract

    Arctic ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change because of Arctic amplification. Here, we assessed the climatic impacts of low-end, 1.5 °C, and 2.0 °C global temperature increases above pre-industrial levels, on the warming of terrestrial ecosystems in northern high latitudes (NHL, above 60 °N including pan-Arctic tundra and boreal forests) under the framework of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project phase 2b protocol. We analyzed the simulated changes of net primary productivity, vegetation biomass, and soil carbon stocks of eight ecosystem models that were forced by the projections of four global climate models and two atmospheric greenhouse gas pathways (RCP2.6 and RCP6.0). Our results showed that considerable impacts on ecosystem carbon budgets, particularly primary productivity and vegetation biomass, are very likely to occur in the NHL areas. The models agreed on increases in primary productivity and biomass accumulation, despite considerable inter-model and inter-scenario differences in the magnitudes of the responses. The inter-model variability highlighted the inadequacies of the present models, which fail to consider important components such as permafrost and wildfire. The simulated impacts were attributable primarily to the rapid temperature increases in the NHL and the greater sensitivity of northern vegetation to warming, which contrasted with the less pronounced responses of soil carbon stocks. The simulated increases of vegetation biomass by 30–60 Pg C in this century have implications for climate policy such as the Paris Agreement. Comparison between the results at two warming levels showed the effectiveness of emission reductions in ameliorating the impacts and revealed unavoidable impacts for which adaptation options are urgently needed in the NHL ecosystems.

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