22 May 2023
 | 22 May 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Effects of idealised land cover and land management changes on the atmospheric water cycle

Steven J. De Hertog, Carmen E. Lopez-Fabara, Ruud van der Ent, Jessica Keune, Diego G. Miralles, Raphael Portmann, Sebastian Schemm, Felix Havermann, Suqi Guo, Fei Luo, Iris Manola, Quentin Lejeune, Julia Pongratz, Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, Sonia I. Seneviratne, and Wim Thiery

Abstract. Land cover and land management changes (LCLMCs) play an important role in achieving low-end warming scenarios through land-based mitigation. However, their effects on moisture fluxes and recycling remain uncertain although they have important implications for the future viability of such strategies. Here, we analyse the impact of idealised LCLMC scenarios on atmospheric moisture transport in three different ESMs: the Community Earth System Model (CESM), the Max Planck Institute Earth System Model (MPI-ESM) and the European Consortium Earth System Model (EC-EARTH). The LCLMC scenarios comprise of a full cropland world, a fully afforested world, and a cropland world with unlimited irrigation expansion. The effects of these LCLMCs in the different ESMs are analysed for precipitation, evaporation and vertically integrated moisture flux convergence to understand the LCLMC-induced changes in the atmospheric moisture cycle. Then, a moisture tracking algorithm is applied to assess the effects of LCLMCs on moisture recycling at the local (grid cell level) and the global scale (continental moisture recycling). Our results indicate that LCLMCs are generally inducing consistent feedbacks on moisture fluxes over land in all ESMs. Cropland expansion causes drying and reduced local moisture recycling in all ESMs, while afforestation and irrigation expansion generally cause wetting and increased local moisture recycling. However, the strength of this influence varies in time and space and across the ESMs and shows a strong dependency on the dominant driver: Some ESMs show a dominance of large scale atmospheric circulation changes while other ESMs show a dominance of local to regional changes in the atmospheric water cycle only within the vicinity of the LCLMC. Overall, these results corroborate that LCLMCs can induce large effects on the atmospheric water cycle and moisture recycling, but more research is needed to constrain the uncertainty of these effects within ESMs and better evaluate land-based mitigation strategies.

Steven J. De Hertog et al.

Status: open (until 10 Jul 2023)

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Steven J. De Hertog et al.

Steven J. De Hertog et al.


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Short summary
Land cover and management changes can affect the climate and water availability. In this study we use climate model simulations of extreme global land cover changes (afforestation, deforestation) and land management changes (irrigation) to understand the effects on the global water cycle and local to continental water availability. We show that cropland expansion generally leads to higher evaporation and lower amounts of precipitation and afforestation and irrigation expansion to the opposite.