Climate warming-induced intensification of the hydrologic cycle: A review of the published record and assessment of the potential impacts on agriculture

Advances in Agronomy
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Abstract

Climate warming is expected to intensify and accelerate the global hydrologic cycle resulting in increases in evaporation, evapotranspiration (ET), atmospheric water-vapor content, and precipitation. The strength of the hydrologic response, or sensitivity of the response for a given degree of warming, is a critical outstanding question in climatology and hydrology. In this review chapter, I examine the published record of trends in various components of the hydrologic cycle and associated variables to assess observed hydrologic responses to warming during the period of observational records. Global and regional trends in evaporation, ET, and atmospheric water-vapor content and several large river basin water-balance studies support an ongoing intensification of the hydrologic cycle. Global trends in precipitation, runoff, and soil moisture are more uncertain than the trends in the variables noted above, in part because of high spatial and temporal variability. Trends in associated variables, such as systematic changes in ocean salinity, the length of the growing season, and the rate of precipitation recycling are generally consistent with intensification of the hydrologic cycle. The evidence for an increase in the frequency, intensity, or duration of extreme-weather events like hurricanes is mixed and remains uncertain. The largest potential impacts to agricultural systems depend greatly on the responses of hydrologic variables that are the most uncertain; for example, intensity and duration of heavy rainfall events; frequency, intensity, and duration of major storms and droughts; and rates of erosion. Impacts on agriculture will depend greatly on how insects, diseases, weeds, nutrient cycling, effectiveness of agrichemicals, and heat stress are affected by an intensification of the hydrologic cycle.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Climate warming-induced intensification of the hydrologic cycle: A review of the published record and assessment of the potential impacts on agriculture
Series title Advances in Agronomy
DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-385040-9.00001-3
Volume 109
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Maine Water Science Center
Description 53 p.
First page 1
Last page 53
Country United States