17 Aug 2022
17 Aug 2022

Local moisture recycling across the globe

Jolanda Theeuwen1,2, Arie Staal1, Obbe Tuinenburg1, Bert Hamelers2,3, and Stefan Dekker1 Jolanda Theeuwen et al.
  • 1Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Utrecht, 3584 CB, The Netherlands
  • 2Wetsus, European Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Water Technology, Leeuwarden, 8911 MA, The Netherlands
  • 3Department of Environmental Technology, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, 6708 PB, The Netherlands

Abstract. Changes in evaporation over land affect terrestrial precipitation via atmospheric moisture recycling and consequently freshwater availability. Although global moisture recycling at regional and continental scales are relatively well understood, the patterns and drivers of local moisture recycling remain unknown. For the first time, we calculate the local moisture recycling ratio (LMR), defined as the fraction of evaporated moisture that rains out within approximately 50 km from its source, and identify its drivers over land globally. We derive seasonal and annual LMR from multi-year (2008–2017) monthly averaged atmospheric moisture connections at a scale of 0.5° obtained from a Lagrangian atmospheric moisture tracking model. We find that, annually, on average 1.6 % of evaporated moisture returns as rainfall locally, but with large temporal and spatial variability, where LMR peaks in summer and over wet and mountainous regions. We identify wetness, orography, latitude, and convective available potential energy as drivers of LMR, indicating a crucial role for convection. Our results can be used to study impacts of evaporation changes on local precipitation, with widespread implications for, for example, regreening and water management.

Jolanda Theeuwen et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-612', Ruud van der Ent, 24 Aug 2022
    • CC2: 'Reply on CC1', Ruud van der Ent, 24 Aug 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on CC1', Jolanda Theeuwen, 16 Sep 2022
      • CC3: 'Reply on AC1', Ruud van der Ent, 12 Oct 2022
        • AC4: 'Reply on CC3', Jolanda Theeuwen, 18 Oct 2022
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-612', Anonymous Referee #1, 15 Sep 2022
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC1', Jolanda Theeuwen, 06 Oct 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-612', Patrick Keys, 16 Sep 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Jolanda Theeuwen, 04 Oct 2022

Jolanda Theeuwen et al.

Jolanda Theeuwen et al.


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Short summary
Evaporation changes over land affect rainfall over land through moisture recycling. We calculated the local moisture recycling ratio globally, which describes the fraction of evaporated moisture that rains out within approx. 50 km of its source location. This recycling peaks in summer, and over wet and elevated regions. Local moisture recycling gives insight into the local impacts of evaporation changes and can be used to study the influence of regreening on local rainfall.