Root zone soil moisture in over 25% of global land permanently beyond pre-industrial variability as early as 2050 without climate policy

En Ning Lai, Lan Wang-Erlandsson, Vili Virkki, Miina Porkka, Ruud J. Van Der Ent*

*Tämän työn vastaava kirjoittaja

Tutkimustuotos: LehtiartikkeliArticleScientificvertaisarvioitu

7 Lataukset (Pure)


Root zone soil moisture is a key variable representing water cycle dynamics that strongly interact with ecohydrological, atmospheric, and biogeochemical processes. Recently, it was proposed as the control variable for the green water planetary boundary, suggesting that widespread and considerable deviations from baseline variability now predispose Earth system functions critical to an agriculture-based civilization to destabilization. However, the global extent and severity of root zone soil moisture changes under future scenarios remain to be scrutinized. Here, we analysed root zone soil moisture departures from the pre-industrial climate variability for a multi-model ensemble of 14 Earth system models (ESMs) in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) in four climate scenarios as defined by the shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs) SSP1-2.6, SSP2-4.5, SSP3-7.0, and SSP5-8.5 between 2021 and 2100. The analyses were done for 43 ice-free climate reference regions used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We defined "permanent departures"when a region's soil moisture exits the regional variability envelope of the pre-industrial climate and does not fall back into the range covered by the baseline envelope until 2100. Permanent dry departures (i.e. lower soil moisture than pre-industrial variability) were found to be most pronounced in Central America, southern Africa, the Mediterranean region, and most of South America, whereas permanent wet departures are most pronounced in south-eastern South America, northern Africa, and southern Asia. In the Mediterranean region, dry permanent departure may have already happened according to some models. By 2100, there are dry permanent departures in the Mediterranean in 70% of the ESMs in SSP1-2.6, the most mitigated situation, and more than 90% in SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5, the medium-high and worst-case scenarios. North-eastern Africa is projected to experience wet permanent departures in 64% of the ESMs under SSP1-2.6 and 93% under SSP5-8.5. The percentage of ice-free land area with departures increases in all SSP scenarios as time goes by. Wet departures are more widespread than dry departures throughout the studied time frame, except in SSP1-2.6. In most regions, the severity of the departures increases with the severity of global warming. In 2050, permanent departures (ensemble median) occur in about 10% of global ice-free land areas in SSP1-2.6 and in 25% in SSP3-7.0. By the end of the 21st century, the occurrence of permanent departures in SSP1-2.6 increases to 34% and, in SSP3-7.0, to 45%. Our findings underscore the importance of mitigation to avoid further degrading the Earth system functions upheld by soil moisture.

JulkaisuHydrology and Earth System Sciences
DOI - pysyväislinkit
TilaJulkaistu - 9 marrask. 2023
OKM-julkaisutyyppiA1 Alkuperäisartikkeli tieteellisessä aikakauslehdessä


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