Root zone soil moisture in over 25 % of global land permanently beyond pre-industrial variability as early as 2050
Abstract. Root-zone soil moisture is a key variable representing water cycle dynamics that strongly interacts 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 destabilization of Earth System functions critical to an agriculture-based civilisation. However, the global extent and severity of root-zone soil moisture changes under future scenarios remains to be scrutinized. Here, we analyzed 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 (SSP), 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 southeastern South America, northern Africa, and southern Asia. In the Mediterranean region, permanent departure may have already happened according to some models. By 2100, there is permanent departure in the Mediterranean in 60 % of the ESMs in SSP1-2.6, the most mitigated situation, and 100 % in SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5, the medium-high and worst-case scenarios. North-Eastern Africa is projected to experience permanent departures in 50 % of the ESMs under SSP1-2.6, and 86 % under SSP5-8.5. The percentage of ice-free land area with departures increases in all SSP scenarios as time goes by.Wet departure are more widespread than dry departures throughout the studied timeframe, 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 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, 45 %. Our findings underscore the importance of mitigation to avoid further degrading the Earth System functions upheld by soil moisture.
En Ning Lai et al.
Status: final response (author comments only)
RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-971', Anonymous Referee #1, 02 Jan 2023
- AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Ruud van der Ent, 17 Apr 2023
RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-971', Wolfgang Wagner, 22 Feb 2023
- AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Ruud van der Ent, 17 Apr 2023
RC3: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-971', Anonymous Referee #3, 20 Mar 2023
- AC3: 'Reply on RC3', Ruud van der Ent, 17 Apr 2023
En Ning Lai et al.
Model code and software
Departure of soil moisture content from the Preindustrial Baseline https://github.com/enninglai/Departure-of-soil-moisture-content-from-the-Preindustrial-Baseline
En Ning Lai et al.
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Review for “Root zone soil moisture in over 25 % of global land permanently beyond pre-industrial variability as early as 2050"
this study analyzed the future changes of the total soil moisture for the four different SSP scenarios. Using 14 ESM in CMIP6, deviation of total soil moisture from the PiControl scenario, permanent departures beyond the Picontrol variability and the time of emergence of those permanent departures are evaluated. Also, this study analyzed regional total soil moisture variability results according to the SSP scenarios in detail and presents the robust results of multi ensemble ESM in some regions like Mediterranean in terms of remarkable dry departure. Regions such as Northern Africa, South-Eastern South America and Southern Asia resulted in considerable wet departures. In many regions, these dry and wet intensities displayed to intensify as the effects of global warming. The priority of this study is to quantitatively organize the regional results according to the SSP future scenarios over global domain. However, as mentioned in chapter 3.5, there are many limitations in relation to the analysis of future SSP scenario results, and additional explanations on the results and data seem to be needed. Detailed comments are below.