Terrestrial water flux responses to global warming in tropical rainforest areas
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Terrestrial water flux responses to global warming in tropical rainforest areas
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  • Source:
    Earth's Future 4(5), 210-224, 2016
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  • Description:
    Precipitation extremes are expected to become more frequent in the changing global climate, which may considerably affect the terrestrial hydrological cycle. In this study, Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 archives have been examined to explore the changes in normalized terrestrial water fluxes (precipitation minus evapotranspiration minus total runoff, divided by the precipitation climatology) in three tropical rainforest areas: Maritime Continent, Congo, and Amazon. Results show that a higher frequency of intense precipitation events is predicted for the Maritime Continent in the future climate than in the present climate, but not for the Amazon or Congo rainforests. Nonlinear responses to extreme precipitation lead to a reduced groundwater recharge and a proportionately greater amount of direct runoff, particularly for the Maritime Continent, where both the amount and intensity of precipitation increase under global warming. We suggest that the nonlinear response is related to the existence of a higher near-surface soil moisture over the Maritime Continent than that over the Amazon and Congo rainforests. The wetter soil over the Maritime Continent also leads to an increased subsurface runoff. Thus, increased precipitation extremes and concomitantly reduced terrestrial water fluxes lead to an intensified hydrological cycle for the Maritime Continent. This has the potential to result in a strong temporal heterogeneity in soil water distribution affecting the ecosystem of the rainforest region and increasing the risk of flooding and/or landslides.
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