skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Global assessment of trends in wetting and drying over land

Abstract

Changes in the hydrological conditions of the land surface have substantial impacts on society1,2. Yet assessments of observed continental dryness trends yield contradicting results3,4,5,6,7. The concept that dry regions dry out further, whereas wet regions become wetter as the climate warms has been proposed as a simplified summary of expected8,9,10 as well as observed10,11,12,13,14 changes over land, although this concept is mostly based on oceanic data8,10. Here we present an analysis of more than 300 combinations of various hydrological data sets of historical land dryness changes covering the period from 1948 to 2005. Each combination of data sets is benchmarked against an empirical relationship between evaporation, precipitation and aridity. Those combinations that perform well are used for trend analysis. We find that over about three-quarters of the global land area, robust dryness changes cannot be detected. Only 10.8% of the global land area shows a robust ‘dry gets drier, wet gets wetter’ pattern, compared to 9.5% of global land area with the opposite pattern, that is, dry gets wetter, and wet gets drier. We conclude that aridity changes over land, where the potential for direct socio-economic consequences is highest, have not followed a simple intensification of existing patterns.

Authors:
; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF); Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1565328
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Nature Geoscience
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 7; Journal Issue: 10; Journal ID: ISSN 1752-0894
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
Geology

Citation Formats

Greve, Peter, Orlowsky, Boris, Mueller, Brigitte, Sheffield, Justin, Reichstein, Markus, and Seneviratne, Sonia I. Global assessment of trends in wetting and drying over land. United States: N. p., 2014. Web. doi:10.1038/ngeo2247.
Greve, Peter, Orlowsky, Boris, Mueller, Brigitte, Sheffield, Justin, Reichstein, Markus, & Seneviratne, Sonia I. Global assessment of trends in wetting and drying over land. United States. doi:10.1038/ngeo2247.
Greve, Peter, Orlowsky, Boris, Mueller, Brigitte, Sheffield, Justin, Reichstein, Markus, and Seneviratne, Sonia I. Sun . "Global assessment of trends in wetting and drying over land". United States. doi:10.1038/ngeo2247.
@article{osti_1565328,
title = {Global assessment of trends in wetting and drying over land},
author = {Greve, Peter and Orlowsky, Boris and Mueller, Brigitte and Sheffield, Justin and Reichstein, Markus and Seneviratne, Sonia I.},
abstractNote = {Changes in the hydrological conditions of the land surface have substantial impacts on society1,2. Yet assessments of observed continental dryness trends yield contradicting results3,4,5,6,7. The concept that dry regions dry out further, whereas wet regions become wetter as the climate warms has been proposed as a simplified summary of expected8,9,10 as well as observed10,11,12,13,14 changes over land, although this concept is mostly based on oceanic data8,10. Here we present an analysis of more than 300 combinations of various hydrological data sets of historical land dryness changes covering the period from 1948 to 2005. Each combination of data sets is benchmarked against an empirical relationship between evaporation, precipitation and aridity. Those combinations that perform well are used for trend analysis. We find that over about three-quarters of the global land area, robust dryness changes cannot be detected. Only 10.8% of the global land area shows a robust ‘dry gets drier, wet gets wetter’ pattern, compared to 9.5% of global land area with the opposite pattern, that is, dry gets wetter, and wet gets drier. We conclude that aridity changes over land, where the potential for direct socio-economic consequences is highest, have not followed a simple intensification of existing patterns.},
doi = {10.1038/ngeo2247},
journal = {Nature Geoscience},
issn = {1752-0894},
number = 10,
volume = 7,
place = {United States},
year = {2014},
month = {9}
}

Works referenced in this record:

The impacts of climate change on water resources and agriculture in China
journal, September 2010

  • Piao, Shilong; Ciais, Philippe; Huang, Yao
  • Nature, Vol. 467, Issue 7311
  • DOI: 10.1038/nature09364

The water footprint of humanity
journal, February 2012

  • Hoekstra, A. Y.; Mekonnen, M. M.
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 109, Issue 9
  • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1109936109

Evaluating Uncertainties in the Projection of Future Drought
journal, April 2008

  • Burke, Eleanor J.; Brown, Simon J.
  • Journal of Hydrometeorology, Vol. 9, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.1175/2007JHM929.1

Little change in global drought over the past 60 years
journal, November 2012

  • Sheffield, Justin; Wood, Eric F.; Roderick, Michael L.
  • Nature, Vol. 491, Issue 7424
  • DOI: 10.1038/nature11575

Elusive drought: uncertainty in observed trends and short- and long-term CMIP5 projections
journal, January 2013


Robust Responses of the Hydrological Cycle to Global Warming
journal, November 2006

  • Held, Isaac M.; Soden, Brian J.
  • Journal of Climate, Vol. 19, Issue 21
  • DOI: 10.1175/JCLI3990.1

Evaluating the “Rich-Get-Richer” Mechanism in Tropical Precipitation Change under Global Warming
journal, April 2009

  • Chou, Chia; Neelin, J. David; Chen, Chao-An
  • Journal of Climate, Vol. 22, Issue 8
  • DOI: 10.1175/2008JCLI2471.1

Ocean Salinities Reveal Strong Global Water Cycle Intensification During 1950 to 2000
journal, April 2012


Current changes in tropical precipitation
journal, April 2010


Greenhouse warming and the 21st century hydroclimate of southwestern North America
journal, December 2010

  • Seager, R.; Vecchi, G. A.
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 107, Issue 50
  • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0910856107

Observed and simulated precipitation responses in wet and dry regions 1850–2100
journal, July 2013


Increase in the range between wet and dry season precipitation
journal, March 2013

  • Chou, Chia; Chiang, John C. H.; Lan, Chia-Wei
  • Nature Geoscience, Vol. 6, Issue 4
  • DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1744

Water Cycle Varies over Land and Sea
journal, June 2012


A general framework for understanding the response of the water cycle to global warming over land and ocean
journal, January 2014


Investigating soil moisture–climate interactions in a changing climate: A review
journal, May 2010


A Multiscalar Drought Index Sensitive to Global Warming: The Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index
journal, April 2010

  • Vicente-Serrano, Sergio M.; Beguería, Santiago; López-Moreno, Juan I.
  • Journal of Climate, Vol. 23, Issue 7
  • DOI: 10.1175/2009JCLI2909.1

On the importance of including vegetation dynamics in Budyko's hydrological model
journal, January 2007

  • Donohue, R. J.; Roderick, M. L.; McVicar, T. R.
  • Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Vol. 11, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.5194/hess-11-983-2007

Vegetation control on water and energy balance within the Budyko framework: VEGETATION CONTROL ON WATER AND ENERGY BALANCE
journal, February 2013

  • Li, Dan; Pan, Ming; Cong, Zhentao
  • Water Resources Research, Vol. 49, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.1002/wrcr.20107

Benchmark products for land evapotranspiration: LandFlux-EVAL multi-dataset synthesis
journal, January 2013

  • Mueller, B.; Hirschi, M.; Jimenez, C.
  • Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, Vol. 10, Issue 1
  • DOI: 10.5194/hessd-10-769-2013

Trends and drivers of regional sources and sinks of carbon dioxide over the past two decades
journal, January 2013


Anthropogenic sulfate aerosol and the southward shift of tropical precipitation in the late 20th century: AEROSOLS AND TROPICAL RAIN BELT SHIFTS
journal, June 2013

  • Hwang, Yen-Ting; Frierson, Dargan M. W.; Kang, Sarah M.
  • Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 40, Issue 11
  • DOI: 10.1002/grl.50502

Updated world map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification
journal, January 2007

  • Peel, M. C.; Finlayson, B. L.; McMahon, T. A.
  • Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Vol. 11, Issue 5
  • DOI: 10.5194/hess-11-1633-2007