What is it about?

The hydrological cycle determines the movement of water on Earth, through evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and other similar processes. Over the years this water cycle has been changing from its set patterns, due to global warming fueled by human activities. In this regard, the world has seen international panels convened to assess the situation and provide expert advice to mitigate such changes. An example is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which publishes assessment reports. Notably, IPCC’s Fourth Assessment report had assessed the responses of the hydrological cycle to global warming, through different models. The next step would be to check if these predictions hold true. Accordingly, a group of scientists from USA used experiments proposed by the same report to check how the water cycle has responded to global warming, so far.

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Why is it important?

The findings reveal that as the models proposed, the hydrological cycle has shown a marked decrease in convective mass fluxes and increase in horizontal moisture transport. In the same manner, the scientists observed that the cycle showed a related enhancement in the evaporation pattern (sans precipitation), and its time-based variation. Additionally, they observed that there is a decrease in horizontal sensible heat transport in the extratropics, particularly a robust decrease in equilibrium climate response, and not in transient climate change scenarios. KEY TAKEAWAY These results point to a host of hydrological cycle-related robust responses to the changing climate, mediated by increase in lower-tropospheric water vapor. These findings would help strategize ways to overcome changes in the hydrological cycle due to global warming, so that the corresponding effects are minimized.

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This page is a summary of: Robust Responses of the Hydrological Cycle to Global Warming, Journal of Climate, November 2006, American Meteorological Society, DOI: 10.1175/jcli3990.1.
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