Revisiting trends in wetness and dryness in the presence of internal climate variability and water limitations over land
Kumar, S., Allan, R. P., Zwiers, F., Lawrence, D. M. and Dirmeyer, P. A. (2016) Revisiting trends in wetness and dryness in the presence of internal climate variability and water limitations over land. Geophysical Research Letters, 42 (24). 10,867-10,875. ISSN 0094-8276
To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/2015GL066858
A theoretically expected consequence of the intensification of the hydrological cycle under global warming is that on average, wet regions get wetter and dry regions get drier (WWDD). Recent studies, however, have found significant discrepancies between the expected pattern of change and observed changes over land. We assess the WWDD theory in four climate models. We find that the reported discrepancy can be traced to two main issues: (1) unforced internal climate variability strongly affects local wetness and dryness trends and can obscure underlying agreement with WWDD, and (2) dry land regions are not constrained to become drier by enhanced moisture divergence since evaporation cannot exceed precipitation over multiannual time scales. Over land, where the available water does not limit evaporation, a “wet gets wetter” signal predominates. On seasonal time scales, where evaporation can exceed precipitation, trends in wet season becoming wetter and dry season becoming drier are also found.