Revisiting the global hydrological cycle: is it intensifying?

Koutsoyiannis, Demetris

As a result of technological advances in monitoring atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and biosphere, as well as in data management and processing, several databases have become freely available. These can be exploited in revisiting the global hydrological cycle with the aim, on the one hand, to better quantify it and, on the other hand, to test the established climatological hypotheses according to which the hydrological cycle should be intensifying because of global warming. By processing the information from gridded ground observations, satellite data and reanalyses, it turns out that the established hypotheses are not confirmed. Instead of monotonic trends, there appear fluctuations from intensification to deintensification, and vice versa, with deintensification prevailing in the 21st century. The water balance on land and in the sea appears to be lower than the standard figures of literature, but with greater variability on climatic timescales, which is in accordance with Hurst–Kolmogorov stochastic dynamics. The most obvious anthropogenic signal in the hydrological cycle appears to be the over-exploitation of groundwater, which has a visible effect on the rise in sea level. Melting of glaciers has an equal effect, but in this case it is not known which part is anthropogenic, as studies on polar regions attribute mass loss mostly to ice dynamics.

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Koutsoyiannis, Demetris: Revisiting the global hydrological cycle: is it intensifying?. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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