Divergent Causes of Terrestrial Water Storage Decline Between Drylands and Humid Regions Globally

An, L., Wang, J., Huang, J., Pokhrel, Y., Hugonnet, R., Wada, Y. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4770-2539, Cáceres, D., Müller Schmied, H., et al. (2021). Divergent Causes of Terrestrial Water Storage Decline Between Drylands and Humid Regions Globally. Geophysical Research Letters 48 (23) e2021GL095035. 10.1029/2021GL095035.

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Abstract

Declines in terrestrial water storage (TWS) exacerbate regional water scarcity and global sea level rise. Increasing evidence has shown that recent TWS declines are substantial in ecologically fragile drylands, but the mechanism remains unclear. Here, by synergizing satellite observations and model simulations, we quantitatively attribute TWS trends during 2002–2016 in major climate zones to three mechanistic drivers: climate variability, climate change, and direct human activities. We reveal that climate variability had transitory and limited impacts (<20%), whereas warming-induced glacier loss and direct human activities dominate the TWS loss in humid regions (∼103%) and drylands (∼64%), respectively. In non-glacierized humid areas, climate variability generated regional water gains that offset synchronous TWS declines. Yet in drylands, TWS losses are enduring and more widespread with direct human activities, particularly unsustainable groundwater abstraction. Our findings highlight the substantive human footprints on the already vulnerable arid regions and an imperative need for improved dryland water conservation.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2022 09:32
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2022 09:32
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/17792

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