Climate change at least twice more than predicted on the water cycle

Climate change at least twice more than predicted on the water cycle

A research group from the University of New South Wales has involved changing patterns of salt in the ocean to assess that somewhere in the range of 1970 and 2014, at least twice more freshwater moved from the equator to the poles than our climate models predicted- - giving us visions regarding how the global water cycle is expanding all in all.


Climate change draws up our chance of both heavy rains and outrageous droughts. Yet, why - and how - is that? Aren't the two disconnected?

Science has shown that climate change contacts every edge of our planet's ecosystem, and the water cycle is no exemption. Since the cycles included are exceptionally reliant upon temperature, changes in one have results on the other. In particular, as global temperatures have consistently expanded at their quickest rates in millions of years, it's straightforwardly impacted things like water vapor concentrations, clouds, precipitation patterns, and streamflow patterns, which are connected with the water cycle.

So how does climate change affect the water cycle?

Water evaporates from the land and ocean, which returns to Earth as rain and snow in the long run. Climate change intensifies this cycle because more water evaporates up high as air temperatures increase. Warmer air can hold more water vapor, which can prompt more serious rainstorms, creating major issues like excessive flooding in coastal communities all over the planet.

In any case, it doesn't end there. While certain areas are encountering more grounded storms, others encounter more dry air and even drought. As referenced above, evaporation increases, and soils dry out as temperatures rise. Then, at that point, when the rain comes, a significant part of the water runs off the hard ground into rivers and streams, and the soil remains dry. The outcome? Even additional evaporation from the soil and an increased chance of drought.

Increasing temperatures pushing significantly more freshwater towards poles than climate models earlier expected.

Climate change at least twice more than predicted on the water cycle

A UNSW Sydney-led study shows at least twice more freshwater has moved from warm to cold areas of the Earth than our climate models predicted- meaning more extensive changes to the global water cycle.

The global water cycle - that is, the consistent movement of freshwater between the clouds, land, and the ocean- assumes a significant part in our day-to-day routines. This sensitive system transports water from the ocean to the land, making our environment livable and soil fertile.

However, increasing global temperatures have been making this system more extreme: water moves from dry areas to wet regions, making droughts deteriorate in parts of the globe while heightening rainfall circumstances and flooding in others. Wet regions are getting wetter, and dry regions are getting drier.

Recently, changes to the cycle have been challenging to observe, with around 80% of worldwide rainfall and evaporation occurring over the ocean directly.

Findings show two and four times more freshwater has moved than climate models predicted.

However, another UNSW-led study, published in Nature, has involved changing salt patterns in the ocean to assess how much ocean freshwater has moved from the equator to the poles beginning around 1970. The results show that somewhere in the range of two and four times more freshwater has moved than climate models predicted- giving us bits of knowledge regarding how the global water cycle is intensifying all in all.

The study's lead author, Dr. Taimoor Sohail, a mathematician and postdoctoral research associate at UNSW Science stated that they knew from past work that the global water cycle was intensifying. But they didn't know how much.

The movement of freshwater from warm to cold regions forms the largest part of water transport. Their findings illustrate the bigger changes occurring in the global water cycle.

The group arrived at their findings by examining observations from three historical data sets covering 1970-2014.

Unexpectedly, instead of direct rainfall, the group focused on how salty the water was in every ocean.

But rather than focusing on direct rainfall observations- which can be difficult to estimate across the ocean- they focused on a more surprising perspective: how salty the water was in every ocean region.

Co-author Jan Zika, an associate professor in the UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics, stated that evaporation eliminates freshwater from the ocean, leaving the salt behind in warmer areas, making the ocean saltier. The water cycle takes that freshwater to colder areas where it falls as rain, diluting the ocean and leaving it less salty.

Simply put, the water cycle leaves a mark on the ocean salt pattern- and by estimating these patterns, researchers can trace how the cycle changes over the long run.

Somewhere in the range of 1970 and 2014, an extra 46,000-77,000 cubic kilometers of freshwater was moved from the equator to the poles than predicted. 

The team estimated that somewhere in the range of 1970 and 2014, an extra 46,000-77,000 cubic kilometers of freshwater was moved from the equator to the poles than predicted- that is, around 18-30 centimeters of freshwater from tropical and subtropical areas, or around 123,000 times the water in Sydney Harbor.

Changes to the water cycle can affect infrastructure, agriculture, and biodiversity. Thus, it is essential to understand how climate change is affecting the water cycle now and into what's to come.

This finding provides us with a thought of how much this part of the water cycle is changing and can assist us with further developing future climate change models.

Enhancing Future Predictions

Climate change at least twice more than predicted on the water cycle

Dr. Sohail and the group compared their discoveries with 20 unique climate models. They found that every model had underestimated the actual change in the warm-cool freshwater move.

Dr. Sohail says the findings could mean they underestimated the effects of climate change on rainfall. Findings like theirs are how they improve on these models. 

Every new generation of modeling adjusts past models with real information, tracking down regions they can enhance in later models. This is a natural progression in climate modeling. 

Researchers are using the 6th generation of climate modeling (called the Sixth Climate Model Intercomparison Project, or 'CMIP6'), which fused updates from the fifth generation.

This newest finding demonstrates the scientific interaction at work - and could assist with enhancing future predictions.

Laying out the change in warm-to-cold freshwater transport implies they can move ahead and keep making these significant predictions regarding what climate change will probably mean for our global water cycle. 

In 10 or 20 years, researchers can use this reference to figure out how much these patterns are further changing after some time.


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