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Evidence for enhanced land-atmosphere feedback in a warming climate

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Dirmeyer, P. , Cash, B. , Kinter III, J. , Stan, C. , Jung, T. , Marx, L. , Towers, P. , Wedi, N. , Adams, J. , Altshuler, E. , Huang, B. , Jin, E. and Manganello, J. (2012): Evidence for enhanced land-atmosphere feedback in a warming climate , Journal of Hydrometeorology, 13 , pp. 981-995 . doi: 10.1175/JHM-D-11-0104.1
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Abstract:

Global simulations have been conducted with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts operational model run at T1279 resolution for multiple decades representing climate from the late twentieth and late twenty-first centuries. Changes in key components of the water cycle are examined, focusing on variations at short time scales. Metrics of coupling and feedbacks between soil moisture and surface fluxes and between surface fluxes and properties of the planetary boundary layer (PBL) are inspected. Features of precipitation and other water cycle trends from coupled climate model consensus projections are well simulated. Extreme 6-hourly rainfall totals become more intense over much of the globe, suggesting an increased risk for flash floods. Seasonal-scale droughts are projected to escalate over much of the subtropics and midlatitudes during summer, while tropical and winter droughts become less likely. These changes are accompanied by an increase in the responsiveness of surface evapotranspiration to soil moisture variations. Even though daytime PBL depths increase over most locations in the next century, greater latent heat fluxes also occur over most land areas, contributing a larger energy effect per unit mass of air, except over some semiarid regions. This general increase in land–atmosphere coupling is represented in a combined metric as a “land coupling index” that incorporates the terrestrial and atmospheric effects together. The enhanced feedbacks are consistent with the precipitation changes, but a causal connection cannot be made without further sensitivity studies. Nevertheless, this approach could be applied to the output of traditional climate change simulations to assess changes in land–atmosphere feedbacks.

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