TITLE

Higher Hydroclimatic Intensity with Global Warming

AUTHOR(S)
Giorgi, F.; Im, E.-S.; Coppola, E.; Diffenbaugh, N. S.; Gao, X. J.; Mariotti, L.; Shi, Y.
PUB. DATE
October 2011
SOURCE
Journal of Climate;Oct2011, Vol. 24 Issue 20, p5309
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
Because of their dependence on water, natural and human systems are highly sensitive to changes in the hydrologic cycle. The authors introduce a new measure of hydroclimatic intensity (HY-INT), which integrates metrics of precipitation intensity and dry spell length, viewing the response of these two metrics to global warming as deeply interconnected. Using a suite of global and regional climate model experiments, it is found that increasing HY-INT is a consistent and ubiquitous signature of twenty-first-century, greenhouse gas-induced global warming. Depending on the region, the increase in HY-INT is due to an increase in precipitation intensity, dry spell length, or both. Late twentieth-century observations also exhibit dominant positive HY-INT trends, providing a hydroclimatic signature of late twentieth-century warming. The authors find that increasing HY-INT is physically consistent with the response of both precipitation intensity and dry spell length to global warming. Precipitation intensity increases because of increased atmospheric water holding capacity. However, increases in mean precipitation are tied to increases in surface evaporation rates, which are lower than for atmospheric moisture. This leads to a reduction in the number of wet days and an increase in dry spell length. This analysis identifies increasing hydroclimatic intensity as a robust integrated response to global warming, implying increasing risks for systems that are sensitive to wet and dry extremes and providing a potential target for detection and attribution of hydroclimatic changes.
ACCESSION #
66853457

 

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